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One-year college requirement for basketball good for everyone but players

FILE - April 16: After only one year with Duke Jabari Parker has announced his decisienter NBA draft. SYRACUSE NY

FILE - April 16: After only one year with Duke, Jabari Parker has announced his decision to enter the NBA draft. SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles the ball up the court against the Syracuse Orange during the second half at the Carrier Dome on February 1, 2014 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeated Duke 91-89 in overtime. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 185398997

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Updated: May 21, 2014 6:26AM



Jabari Parker’s decision Wednesday to turn pro had all the suspense of a sunrise. I knew he was leaving Duke, you knew he was leaving Duke and your pet goldfish knew he was leaving Duke.

It was the right move.

And if the silly rule that requires all players entering the NBA draft to be at least 19 and one year out of high school hadn’t been in effect, he would have turned pro out of Simeon last year.

That would have been the right move, too.

Instead, we keep up the charade of college being the proper destination for all young basketball players, even if it’s only for a year. If I have this right, a newly minted high school graduate can bypass college to become a plumber’s apprentice, wait tables or try to hit it big with a rock band, but there is something unseemly about one who wants to be paid to play basketball.

Signing a contract to play baseball or hockey out of high school? Perfectly OK. Basketball? Are you crazy?

It’s a good thing Mozart didn’t take his talents to Duke. Maestro K still would have him practicing piano scales.

More and more parents believe college is a vehicle solely for obtaining a job rather than getting an education or broadening one’s mind. Fine, we’ll agree to disagree on that. But what college kid stands to sign a three-year, $10 million contract upon graduation? Yet we make the top players wait a year — and risk injury — for that payoff before we let them turn pro. Further, we come down on these kids for having the nerve to want to make money.

To sum up the mixed message: Get a decent job after high school but not a phenomenal job that bypasses college. You’ll lose hair by scratching your head over that one.

I’m not saying that none of these precocious stars profits basketball-wise from playing a year or two in college. Of course, they do. They can sharpen their skills and lose some of the AAU selfishness that has corrupted their games. But it should be their choice what path to follow.

Parker was ready for the NBA last year, just as Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor is this year. And somebody such as Curie’s Cliff Alexander — whom I’m guessing would be gone to the NBA in a second, given the opportunity — should have that option. Instead, Okafor will spend a year with Duke and Alexander a year with Kansas.

There was very little at Duke for someone such as Parker. A year of playing for Mike Krzyzewski and a year of the ‘‘college experience,’’ which high-level Division I players hardly get to sample — that’s it. He would have been a top-five draft pick this year and last.

Duke fans got a year of watching him play. I wonder if those intelligent students feel a bit empty after the experience. When they reminisce, they can say: ‘‘December was my favorite month of the Jabari Parker Era. Or was it January?’’

If the only thing is winning, then Kentucky fans have to be the happiest bunch in America. They win 25 games-plus every year with freshmen who are tapping their toes impatiently while waiting for the day they can declare for the NBA draft.

Meanwhile, Kentucky makes millions of dollars off the backs of these ‘‘student-athletes.’’ And you wonder why some Northwestern football players want to unionize.

It’s easy for the powers that be to make decisions for kids who have no power. But it’s not NCAA and NBA officials whose anterior cruciate ligaments are on the line during the one year of college they believe is so important. And they don’t stand to lose millions of dollars because of injury.

The NCAA and its ‘‘member institutions’’ do stand to lose many millions if the NBA lifts its ban on high school kids. The NBA would prefer these kids start in the league later so they’ll get to bigger contracts later, thus saving owners money. It’s one of the reasons the NBA is pushing for the minimum age to be pushed to 20. I believe we’ve reached the nub of the matter.

Colleges see a source of income in danger of being taken away, and the NBA, in cahoots, would prefer that young players have more seasoning before they turn pro. There’s little altruism involved.

Many of these kids aren’t equipped to handle college. They don’t want to be there, they don’t care about learning and they don’t think about anything but playing basketball. Why don’t we let them?



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