Ok, so this was big in the news a few weeks back, but I didn't get to devote a whole article to it like I hoped because there was just too much going on in the sports world. Cody Zeller decided to come out for the NBA draft, despite the fact his "Draft Stock" took a pretty big hit during the season when he didn't manhandle opposing teams like every expected him to prior to the year (Too much hype sports media?). A lot, and by a lot I mean almost all, of Hoosier fans were crying for Cody to stay and play another year, saying he "wasn't ready" for the NBA, and too some extent I do agree... Zeller is not ready to step in at the NBA level and be a 20-10 guy every night... but most college centers are not. The bigger question is: Will staying another year help Zeller improve significantly more than a year in the NBA would, or does it have more potential to hurt his stock more. And my argument is the latter. The NBA season is 82 games, the typical college season is around 30. Of the 30 games IU would play next year, the first 10-12 would be against teams that have no business trying to stop Zeller, he would get 20-10 and it would be like playing in high school all over again, he would look great, but not get any better. Then the big ten season would roll around and one of two things would happen: 1) Zeller would look like a beast like people expect (no change in draft stock) or 2) Zeller would look bad like he did at times this year (Draft stock takes a hit again). The alternative is him getting to play and practice against guys bigger, and better than him that can really teach him moves that will help him succeed in the NBA. He may spend time in the D-League, but those guys are at least as competitive as the Big Ten guys Zeller would face, and he would get more games against quality talent there. Also, NBA teams would rather draft an incomplete guy with loads of potential, than a finished product that has a "low ceiling". Zeller going pro is the best choice for him, though I will miss him greatly in the cream and crimson.
So, 365 days ago, Andrew Luck and RGIII were signing big contracts and looking at a promising future as Pro QB's and eventually Playoff football later that year. Matt Barkley was planning on leading USC back to glory in his senior season... putting off being a top-10 NFL pick for a year. Fast forward 1 year, Barkley lead USC to a 7-6 season, hurt his shoulder, and ended up not getting picked until the 3rd day of the draft (4th round). No one, and I mean no one, saw Barkley getting drafted this low a year ago, he was going to go get his ring with USC and get an extra year of work in before going pro, and he would get to be a #1 pick now that he wasn't in the same class as Luck and Griffin. As mentioned as a fear for Zeller, he got exposed by playing another year in college. I hate to say that because I am pro-getting your degree, but it backfired for Barkley... probably to the tune over 10's of millions of dollars over the next 4 years. I want to see Barkely succeed because even though I hate USC he was fun to watch whip the ball around, he's go the intangibles, and Lane Kiffin, plus the NCAA sactions, kind of hurt his chances.
Andrew Luck is kind of the Anti-Matt Barkley. Luck was a concensus top 5 pick in the 2011 draft, but decided to finish his degree at Stanford and lead the Cardinal for another year (despite his coach leaving). The result, a top 5 finish for Stanford, and getting drafted by a very solid organization in the Colts where he was able to compete from the get go. Sorry for the pun, but did Luck have a bit of Luck there? Who knows, but, staying an extra year worked out for him, and he was able to get his favorite target from Stanford to come along with him to Indy (again, maybe chance but it worked out), make a run at a major bowl game, and solidify himself as a number 1 pick who got to get drafted by a playoff caliber team versus a team that would be back in the 1 slot within a few years.
The NBA has by far the worst system of the "big 3" sports in America, which leads to a lot more debating on whether or not a guy should come out. In Football, players cannot declare for the draft until after their junior season... pretty cut and dry. In Major League Baseball, you either have to choose to go pro straight from high school, or you must wait until you have completed either your entire Junior College (JuCo) career, or your junior year at a 4 year school. With the NBA, you are required to go to exactly one year of college... because that makes perfect sense. The result of this brilliant rule is both the university,l college basketball and the individual losing. For the players who should be going straight to the NBA, playing a year in college really can only hurt their draft stock (getting hurt, getting into trouble, getting benched, etc...), and it costs them a year of income. For the University, these one and done guys often stop going to classes as soon as basketball season ends. That really hurts your athletic departments standing in terms of athletes GPA. Also coaches have to begin to weigh the odds of investing a scholarship in these players, because they know full and well they will be gone after a year. If you do invest in them, you have situation like this year at Kentucky where you go from a national championship to one and done in the NIT. The other end of that is if you don't go after these guys, you are missing out on some of the top talent, and in a league like the big ten, ACC, or the soon to be extinct Big East, .500 seasons don't make universities really excited to keep you around. College basketball as a whole suffers because, you don't get to see those dominant teams we grew accustomed to for years where a team was lead by a terrific group of junior and seniors to a national title. More times than not the star players for the national title teams are filled with 18 and 19 year old kids. I would really like to see the NBA follow the MLB's suit and give players 2 options, don't go to college at all, or commit to college for at least 3 years.
This ties to the last point a bit, but DeShaun Thomas was Mr. Basketball for the state of Indiana (then he promptly went to OSU, ugh) and if he had the opportunity, probably would have gone straight to the NBA. He had to go to college for a year, per the rule, and promptly rode pine because Thad Motta wasn't happy with what he saw. As a result, Thomas has developed greatly over the last 3 years and is now a much more complete player as he likely heads to the draft as a Junior (hey, there's an idea, make them stay 3 years) . Thomas was the center piece for a solid OSU team this year that would have gone much farther had Thomas had a little help on offense more frequently that he did. Thomas' defense improved greatly over the 3 years as well.
-T.O. signing out