DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter, Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lonnie Walker, Gary Trent Jr., Troy Brown, Zhare Smith, Trevon Duval, Jontay & Michael Porter, Brandon McCoy, Hamidou Diallo, Anfernee Simons, and Mitchell Robinson.
This is the list of one-and-done players slated to be drafted in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft. There are also two guys – Mitchell Robinson and Anfernee Simons – set to get an invite to the Barclays Center on June 21 that have never played a second of college basketball. Here’s the kicker: you won’t find a single one of the guys listed prior to this sentence on the court this weekend fighting for college’s ultimate prize.
Draft board publications and pundits have only one of the 60-plus players suiting up for the teams in this year’s NCAA Final Four predicted to be a lottery pick. That player, Mikal Bridges of Villanova, is a junior. He and Mo Wagner are the only two projected first round picks playing this weekend. To put it in perspective, there are only five guys who can legally have a celebratory drink if they are selected in their anticipated first round slots.
The idea of young prospects is not a new concept by any means. Just over a decade ago, NBA GM’s went nuts and drafted eight then nine high schoolers in the 2004 and 2005, respectively. The following year, the NBA prohibited players from skipping college and entering the draft, forcing kids to postpone the realization of their dreams while they mindlessly daydream in prerequisite classes at college institutions around the country.
Whether requiring young men to be 19 years of age and one year removed from high school graduation is fair or not is another has been a hot debate. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, it has been widely accepted that it is absolutely necessary to get these one and done guys if your team has any hopes of competing for a national championship. Closer examination may prove otherwise.
The obvious case study for stockpiling one and done phenoms is John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Since he’s stepped on campus in Lexington, Calipari has been able to assemble some of the most ridiculous rosters of talent college basketball has seen. He has had a whopping 21 one-and-done players during his tenure, including multiple perennial NBA all-stars on one team in 2009-10 in the form of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Big Blue Nation also licked their chops and prepped for an impending championship in 2013 when six McDonald’s All-Americans signed with Kentucky. Then, the BBN began printing championship shirts again the following season when the ‘Cats inked four of the top players in the country, all of which are currently playing in the NBA. Neither of those teams won the championship. The Wall and Cousins team didn’t even make the Final Four. It would be idiotic to deny the fact that UK has dominated since Calipari arrived in 2009. However, the 21 one-and-done players from then until now (without this year’s teams making any decisions) has resulted in one national championship.
Let’s dub the college landscape since 2009 the one-and-done era. Prior to this time period, it was a badge of honor to recruit guys who “wanted to be here,” with that “here” being on their respective campuses, fully enjoying the student-athlete experience as a student first. Coaches, such as Mike Kryzewski, publicly admonished filling rosters with guys who was using college as a mere formality- a pit stop of sorts- before entering the draft and leaving the beloved fans and alma mater with feelings of abandonment as they reminisce on what could have been. Coach K felt that way until 2014 when he signed four McDonald’s All-Americans one year after he outfitted Jabari Parker, who was thought of as the best high school payer since LeBron James at the time, in Duke blue. The four freshmen signed for the 2014-15 season played a major role in helping that Blue Devil team walk away with the national championship and quite possibly the dopest championship hats ever created.
That Duke squad is truthfully the only team to win a national championship during our “One and Done” era with Freshman attributing to the bulk of the production. Oddly, the other team that won with freshman doing a lot of the heavy lifting is the 2010 Connecticut Huskies. But that team also had Kemba Walker playing out of his mind. There have been young teams to challenge and even win the national title, but none other than those teams have actually won it during this time period.
The Fab Five of Michigan back in 1991 may be the originators of riding the wave of highly touted freshmen igniting a fan base and making a run for the ages. Problem is, the most renowned collection of freshmen in NCAA basketball history could not finish the job. Instead, they lost to less talented, more experienced teams as freshmen then again as sophomores. A team with three guys who played over 15 years each in the league couldn’t win a national championship in college.
Fast forward to 2018: Four rosters, but only two McDonald’s All Americans, three Jordan Brand participants, one projected lottery pick, two projected first round picks, and one team that most people didn’t even know existed until two weeks ago. More often than not, this is the norm. There are more VCU and George Mason stories than stories of triumphant one and done teams hoisting trophies. Does that mean having that talent pointless? Should coaches recruit marginal players that they can groom to four-year players as opposed to chasing the top ranked players across the country? Emphatically, no and no! However, the fact that only a singular one-and-done loaded team has had their one shining moment, including the relative failures of those stacked Kentucky teams and this year’s Duke team, does call to question the theory that the one-and-done rule is ruining college basketball.
On Monday, April 2, a new NCAA Basketball champion will be crowned. Tears will flow. Confetti will fall. Payers will become folk heroes on the campus of the winning team. Then it will be over, and the pursuit will begin again. Coach K will begin his ascent up the mountain with the number one, two, and three ranked high school players and the top ranked high school point guard in tow. Time will tell if he can recapture lightning in a bottle with four dudes who may very well shake Adam Silver’s hand come summer 2019, or if there may be another Loyola Chicago laying in the weeds with no NBA players on the roster eager to gain their one shining moment at their expense.