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One and done rule bad for NBA and colleges

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Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 5:46 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

Dwight Howard. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Kevin Garnett. Chris Paul.

If you're a casual basketball fan, you know that those five guys made up the 2007-08 All-NBA First Team.

If you follow the game a little more closely, you know that every player on that list, except for Paul, made the jump to the league straight out of high school.

In a few years, the chances of a First Team like this one will be slim to none thanks to the NBA's relatively new policy.

In order for an American player to be draft-eligible, he must be a year removed from his final high school season and 19 years old.

This has led to a slew of one-and-done players at big-time universities throughout the country over the last two years.

As a result, the last two NBA Drafts saw freshmen selected with the first (Greg Oden and Derrick Rose) and second picks (Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley).

Except there's a problem with this rule: Everyone loses.

Top-flight prospects who have no interest (or need) for a year of schooling are forced to attend universities that should be trying to build programs.

These schools pack the bleachers with their elite talent, but ultimately, they are choosing to win with mercenaries and not players committed to the school itself.

The level of college basketball might be slightly higher, but at what cost?

Despite concerns from college coaches, such as the legendary Bob Knight, NBA Commissioner David Stern has had no problem with using the collegiate ranks as his personal breeding ground for next-level talent.

But on Tuesday night, something unfathomable happened that will undoubtedly bring unprecedented scrutiny to this policy.

The No. 1 prospect in the incoming freshman class has decided to forgo his NCAA experience in order to pursue a one-year professional career overseas.

Imagine LeBron James taking his game to Italy for a season because the NBA didn't think he was ready for the jump.

Brandon Jennings is a 6-foot-2 point guard commit to Arizona and considered the best player in his class.

Or should I say, he was a commit.

Because of questions with his ability to qualify academically, Jennings decided not to toil with the SATs when he could take an all-expense paid vacation to Europe that comes with a six-figure salary.

And I don't blame him one bit.

This kid is meant to play basketball. It's his life, his passion and inevitably his livelihood.

Rather than waste everyone's time (including but not limited to: his, his would-be teammates at Arizona, his would-be teachers and the soon to be jilted Wildcats fans and alumni), Jennings is cashing in on his abilities.

It's hard for academia to understand, but school will always be there.

Jennings will always be able to go back to school and earn a degree whenever he feels like it.

His smooth jump shot, quick feet and otherworldly hops come with an expiration date. There's only so many years the American public will pay to see you cross someone over, spin move in the lane and dunk over a 7-foot center.

Hopefully, Jennings' decision will cause Stern to think long and hard about his age restriction policy.

If this becomes a vogue move for draftees in wait, it could mean unwanted repercussions for the NBA.

Blue chippers could take their game to Europe while they wait for an even bigger payday from the Association. That would mean the one good thing I see in this policy (increased level of play in the college ranks) would be no more.

Not only that, but you risk American players developing the European leagues. It's no secret that the rest of the world is starting to catch up to American basketball. Think about the influence young, American superstars would have on whichever leagues they choose. We want to keep the best American talent in the United States. Just ask soccer fans.

It may not happen after this year and this incident alone, but if No. 1 overall prospects start to play for Tau Ceramica and Real Madrid instead of Kansas and UCLA, Stern will be forced to make a change.

Don't be fooled. Keeping youngsters in school and out of the den of sin that is the NBA is not done for the protection of our fragile youth. Follow the money, as my mother always used to say. The league doesn't want young, unproven players, who are likely three-to-five year projects, making more than seasoned vets.

I commend Jennings for not trying to be something that he's not.

And hopefully in a couple of years, I'll be commending Stern for admitting he was wrong and making a much-needed change.

Welcome to the discussion.