Disruptive week in IU men’s basketball should raise concerns


(Bloomington) The Herald-Times

Herald-Times columnist Jeremy Price analyzed the Indiana University basketball situation well when he wrote in a column published recently that the Hoosiers will survive the transfer of three players and the loss of Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft.

Other players will step in for Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington and Jonny Marlin. Those new players will compete hard.

Vonleh’s move was predictable. He’s projected as a top 10 draft pick, which means he’ll start his career making $1 million-plus at the age of 19.

No one should blame him for taking the money instead of risking injury to return to IU for another year.

Still, this illustrates the problematic one-and-done phenomenon brought on by a change made by the NBA a few years ago.

With high school players such as Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James going straight to the pros, former NBA commissioner David Stern called for setting an age limit of 20 for entry into the league.

He said he believed too many young urban kids saw the NBA as a path to fame and fortune when they weren’t nearly ready to compete at that level and instead could continue getting an education while honing their skills.

Most players opposed Stern’s idea, but the league and the players union agreed in 2005 to require players starting in 2006 to be at least 19 and one year removed from their high school graduating class to be eligible for the league. That forced a lot of players such as Vonleh to go to college for a year before they would be eligible for the NBA.

The continuity of college basketball would be helped if the league reconsidered Stern’s original idea so players would need to stay in college two years, presumably working their way at least halfway to a degree. The counter argument says the marketplace should decide; if a player can earn a spot in the NBA when he’s 18, he should be allowed to.

A good compromise would follow the lead of Major League Baseball, which says players can enter the draft right out of high school if they don’t go to college. But if they enroll in a four-year college, they must complete their junior year or be at least 21 years old before being eligible to enter the draft.

MLB also has a strong minor league system, which the NBA needs, so those not ready for prime time could make a living developing their game at a lower level.

Those rules would be irrelevant for 99 percent of college players, including Hollowell, Etherington and Marlin, who don’t have the skill or evident potential to jump to the NBA.

It’s their departure — three former Hoosier high school basketball stars — that should concern even the most casual IU fan. Those three players should understand better than most what coach Tom Crean means when he says, “It’s Indiana.”

But they’ve now each seen “it” up close for at least two years and have decided — like another player, Luke Fischer, did in the middle of the season — they’ve seen enough. More than Vonleh leaving for the NBA, those players’ desire to leave Indiana should trouble Hoosier Nation.

Distributed by The Associated Press. Send comments to [email protected].

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