Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


NBA quick to snag 1st underclassman

The NCAA tournament isn't even half way over and the first underclassman has already declared for the NBA draft.

Missouri guard Thomas Gardner announced Wednesday that he will forgo his senior season in hopes of making the pros.

The problem many thought would cease with the NBA's new age limit of 19 still exists: young players jumping to the Association who have no business being there.


While Gardner's case is somewhat warranted — he was, in fact, the second-best scorer and top three-point shooter in the Big XII and had repeatedly said he didn't want to play for another coach following Quin Snyder's departure from Mizzou — it's still questionable.

Why would a player give up the chance to play at the collegiate level while obtaining a degree for the possibility of playing in one of the least cared about professional leagues, where everybody travels and nobody cares until the playoffs?

Well, the answer in the players' opinions is quite easy: money.

Even that's hard to fathom, however, when looking at the big picture. The reality is the money will always be there in the future, but the chance to play basketball at the NCAA level is only one of a four-year window.

The Tigers' new head coach, Melvin Watkins, has helped Gardner with his decision to test the NBA waters, but only because he felt as if it was inevitable — and not just in Gardner's case, but in all of NCAA basketball today.

"This is the lay of the landscape in college basketball, and this is becoming the norm," Watkins said at Gardner's press conference.

And Watkins isn't the only one to give into the growing trend of players jumping pro.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim recruited Carmelo Anthony knowing he was likely to only play for his freshman season, and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino recruited Sebastian Telfair well aware he may jump to the pros even before he stepped foot on campus.

Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun, too, has become well-accustomed to players leaving campus for the NBA.

From Ben Gordon to Emeka Okafor and Charlie Villanueva to Caron Butler, Calhoun knows collegiate players are likely to go pro if even the slightest opportunity exists.

But he doesn't like it — not one bit.

After Rudy Gay's disappointing first-round game against Albany, Calhoun openly expressed his displeasure with players having the NBA on their mind — without even being prompted to.

"Rudy Gay probably won't be at Connecticut because the NBA would like to throw him on a bench some place for two years so he can 'develop,'" Calhoun said.

Gay is widely considered to be the number one overall pick in next year's draft if he declares, but his 15.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this year have been less than stellar given the fact he could do so much more.

And while Calhoun does admit Gay hasn't shown his full potential because the Huskies are a team that relies on five to six players rather than one, he would advise Gay to stay in college because it's the "greatest builder" for both basketball and life in general.

Regardless of what Calhoun or anyone else thinks, it probably won't matter to Gay. While he's not a child prodigy by any means, he is still just a kid at the age of 19.

"He's a child who's got an incredible talent and is just a wonderful kid," Calhoun said. "As a society, all of us … we can't do anything about it, but we can change and let the culture change and let these kids grow so that by next year he's still playing like all he can be and not sitting on the bench somewhere — that to me would not be a good thing."

There's no doubting Gay's potential at the next level, but maybe he should take a cue from Duke's J.J. Redick — enjoy the college game while you can.

Redick — not a top NBA pick by any means but a player that will make the Association nonetheless — made his name at the college level and will always be remembered for it regardless of what he does in the pros.

And he'll still be making comparable dollars to those who leave school early.

Then again, having players declare for the draft is simply inevitable, so as Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan always says, enjoy 'em while you can.

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