On the Bounce with Coach Meyer, Final Four vol. 1
A lot of the talk at the Final Four has centered around the phenomena of prep players jumping straight to the NBA. Here are some thoughts from conversations and interviews with several coaches in San Antonio.
One high major assistant summed up the situation as being simply “sad.” He pointed out the fact that for every LeBron James, there are a dozen others that are not ready. Being at such a young age, there is a good chance that the celebrity lifestyle will hinder player development, while the player and his circle of family, friends, and acquaintances spend up the money.
Even in a good case scenario, the player develops his skills over time, but misses out on the experience of playing on a real team. A college team might be the only chance a NBA caliber player ever has to play on a squad with other highly talented players that are not primarily playing for a contract.
In college you play for a program. In the NBA you play for a franchise. In high school a NBA prospect typically is the team, with the exception of powerhouse programs that play on a different level than most high school teams.
Statements that appeared in USA Today from Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt on his team’s unselfish play relate to this issue.
“Maybe people don’t appreciate the way the game is supposed to be played,” said Coach Hewitt. “It’s supposed to be a game that’s pass first, team first…. I think we spend so much time focusing on the individual, we forget this is a team sport.”
“In the NBA, it used to be, growing up, it’s the Knicks vs. the Bullets, the Bucks vs. the Celtics. Now it’s Shaq vs. Yao Ming. What’s that? That’s not basketball. That’s tennis. I’m serious. That’s what’s wrong with our game today.”
Another high major assistant that is involved in the recruitment of a player that might opt for the NBA stressed the importance of these players listening to the right people. It is critical that these players get sound and honest advice from people who are in the know about the NBA.
Hopefully, the dozen or so players out of the 2004 class who are considering the draft are not listening to unscrupulous agents and hanger-oners who are just saying what any teenager would want to hear. The other thing this coach pointed out was that most guys want the NBA lifestyle but might not be prepared to do the work as a player to sustain that lifestyle.
Boo Williams, the head coach of the USA Select team that competed in the Hoop Summit game, had a take on the situation in a post game interview.
“Well, it’s hurting the college game, but with what they [the NBA] are offering, they [prep prospects] have to go,” said Coach Williams, who has been coaching AAU basketball for over 20 years. “They need to make sure they are a lottery pick. If so, they have got to go. If just a first rounder, then they need to go to college for one year.”
Coach Williams then stated the most important aspect of the decision making process.
“They key is that they have the right people giving them advice,” he said. “Who are they listening to?”
The bottom line is that if a college education is viewed merely as a means to an end of making money in a profession, then any prospect who is certain to be drafted in the first round, and thus receive a three year guaranteed contract, is only making a rational decision if he bypasses college.
In other words, you certainly cannot blame anyone for making the jump. There is not much criticism of baseball players, hockey players, olympic sport athletes, and entertainers for missing out on the college experience.