College Basketball's Version Of Free Agency
Coaching basketball at a high profile school like Kentucky, North Carolina, or Syracuse has got to be a real drag these days. Any McDonalds All American you sign is going to leave you as soon as he possibly can. Which means that enormous amount of work that you invested in somehow convincing a top recruit that your program was more desirable than perhaps 10 other equally attractive basketball powerhouses will never develop into what you ultimately envisioned. Mark Few's job at Gonzaga is much more interesting. Not once has a McDonald's All American played for Gonzaga. Yet he somehow rises to the challenge of making that team relevant each and every year while still getting the pleasures that come with coaching FOUR YEAR ATHLETES.
In 2005 the National Braindead Association decided that if a male is one year removed from high school and either 19 or going to turn 19 in that year he may enter the NBA draft. This meant that "as soon as he possibly can" became after playing one year of college basketball. What used to be a four year journey for a recruiting class in which each year they tried to improve their final destination in the NCAA tournament has been replaced with a one year audition of your very best freshman who will of course be looking primarily to pad their stats and remain injury free. We have to look no further than the players that have left the University of Texas after just one or two years. Since 2005 they include Lamarcus Aldridge(he missed half of his freshman season so he really only played one full college season), Daniel Gibson, Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, and Cory Joseph. Durant, Augustin, and Damion James were in the same class in 2006 and surely, given Durant's enormous progress, they would have captured Texas's first national championship had they played one or two more years together. In fact Texas did get to the Elite Eight with Augustin and James the year after Durant left.
I found it amusing when i heard that less than a week after being drafted by the Seattle Supersonics Durant would have his number retired by Texas. If he gave a damn about the school he would have completed the championship goal i mentioned above but the simple fact is he, like all the others that opt out early, only care about themselves and getting paid. Would Durant have lost any fame and fortune had he stuck around for one more year? Mere pennies is the answer. Compared to what he will make in his career that extra year of pro basketball salary would seem like pennies to him. Now Damion James is the guy who really should have his number retired, not Durant. He stayed and played all four years and was then drafted by the New Jersey Nets. James broke his foot in his rookie season and is having other foot issues this season but still making a healthy salary of $1,243,080 in 2011-2012. There seems to be some justice there because most guys are worried about getting hurt in college BEFORE THEY GET PAID. But cheers to Damion James as a model to current high school stars proving that you can have a prolific AND COMPLETE college career and still make it to the NBA and it's world of lucrative contracts.