Andrew Wiggins, the next basketball star from Canada (2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Kelly Olynyk and, of course, Steve Nash - among others), replied to an innocent question with an, if you will, un-American answer when he was asked what he has enjoyed most about his short time in Lawrence so far.
“I would say just being able to enjoy my last year of school,” said the (over?) hyped frosh from the University of Kansas. Whoa! His blatantly honest statement further fueled the controversial NCAA one-and-done rule. There has been continuous discussion about the rule ever since the NCAA adopted it. It seems the majority feel as though intercollegiate hoops ought to employ the same rule that college baseball does, i.e. “a player can be selected in the Major League Baseball draft after their senior year in high school; if they decline the opportunity to sign then, they cannot be selected again until after their third year of college ball” (from College Baseball Eligibility Rules by Kurt Johnson). Football’s policy differs only in the fact that there is more redshirting in their sport, so a (redshirt) sophomore is eligible to be drafted following that season (his third in college). Note: If a player enrolls at a 2-year college, he is eligible for the draft at any time but basketball players have egos that won’t allow them to even consider junior college.
Coaches at the highest levels are caught in the dilemma. Even if they despise the one-and-done rule, they are forced to recruit these superstars because if they don’t, they know they’ll find themselves competing against a team that does. And if that team happens to be in their league, it might mean having to play against him twice, and maybe three times in the conference tournament (four, if each team advanced that far in the NCAA tourney).
If a poll were taken, John Calipari of Kentucky might get all the first place votes in the “Which coach has best dealt with the rule?” Others’ attitude is they’ll recruit the obvious one-and-done player but they don’t necessarily like it and some have gone as far as to say it is one of the major reasons guys get fired. What?!? Think about it. You get the stud and expectations go through the roof - even more pressure than usual because of the hype that accompanies these 18-year-olds who, by the way, might just be mis-evaluated, i.e. their game has more holes in it than originally met the eye. Plus, it takes a special type of coach to get the most out of a kid who knows he’s only going to be at the school for a year, e.g. how much is his attitude directed toward winning? Then, throw in the fact that, independent of Ws and Ls, if you don’t successfully recruit them, the fans (especially the ones who donate big dollars - and opinions to match) start wondering if, maybe, their coach needs to be replaced - not by a better coach but by a better recruiter.
The next issue is one-and-dones make it awfully hard to sustain success. Although it was a long, long time ago, I can remember college coaches (me being one of them) talking about how everybody knew that Stephon Marbury of Georgia Tech was going to leave after his freshman season but how, for whatever reason, he wouldn’t let then-Yellow Jackets coach, Bobby Cremins, know. Rival coaches (me not being one of them) would plant the seed in the minds of rising point guards that “if Marbury was leaving, why wouldn’t he say so? Could it be because he planned on returning?” Although there wasn’t a coach on the planet who felt this way, it put enough doubt into recruits’ minds. This crippled Tech’s recruiting because as highly as young phenoms thought of themselves, none had an ego big enough to think he was going to beat out Marbury. By the time the inevitable announcement was made, there were no guards left good enough for Bobby. It devastated his program. Many coaches felt this was the beginning of the end for him at Georgia Tech, a school that had won two games the year before he took over and, while he eventually took the Jackets to the Final Four, it’s well known how short boosters’ memories are.
As far as which way to go with the one-and-done player, the philosophy is this:
“You can build a TEAM with one-and-done players, but you can’t build a PROGRAM with them.”