The Wildcat's loss against Florida happened less than four nights ago but it's already way in the back of the minds of nearly every UK fan. Saturday's blowout loss against Tennessee added insult to injury but the concern of Wildcat fans remains with Nerlens Noel.
Big Blue Nation's concern has turned to the health and well-being of Noel, who we all know suffered a torn ACL against Florida and will sit out the rest of the season.
The back-to-back losses means little to a fan base well known for protecting every player that puts on that blue and white jersey with KENTUCKY stitched across the front. Right now that base is protecting Noel -- a player who quickly became loved for his high motor, non-stop hustle and defensive play.
To the outside world, the world who knows little of how much the fan base truly cares for players, many more questions have surfaced. How will Noel's draft stock be affected? Who does Chad Ford have taking No. 1 overall now? Should the one-and-done rule be eliminated to protect players from accidents like the one Noel suffered?
That last question is one that resonates with the BBN more than it does with most fan bases.
It feels wrong to discuss the topic in the wake of a season ending injury to a kid who gave everything he had all the time, but it needs to be asked. Should the one-and-done rule be eliminated?
Coach John Calipari has had eight players leave after their freshman year of college so if any fan base could coherently discuss the topic, it would be the BBN, no?
Let's be clear here -- the one-and-done rule isn't John Calipari's rule. Coach Cal has stated on many occasions that he wishes the rule would change.
Let's also be clear. It's not college basketball's rule, either. The NBA and the NBAPA control and negotiate every piece of the one-and-done rule.
Their stance on the rule is that the year players have out of high school gives teams and owners more time to evaluate a player's game before deciding to spend a pick and, in turn, millions of dollars on him.
The reason the one-and-done rule is so hard to change is because the NBA has an absolute right to its stance. It is their money that will be shelled out when a player becomes professional; why not take as much time to evaluate as you can?
The rule has seemingly worked for the benefit of some players. Kevin Durant stayed for one year, developed at Texas, then averaged 20.3 points a game in his first season. Derrick Rose played at Memphis for a season then became the youngest MVP ever. You can't tell me that Dwight Howard's post game wouldn't have become more polished had he been forced to stay a year in college.
A two-year-and-done or a 20 year old age limit would benefit the NBA even more. That would give owners even more time to evaluate a player's talent and it would allow for more player development in college. The NBA commissioner, David Stern, has lobbied for a two-year limit multiple times. But even then, the overall problem wouldn't be resolved.
Think about this. It's not mandatory for every high school graduate to attend college; why is it different for basketball players? People, who have never played a sport, graduate high school and immediately look for a job to make money. Why is it different because you happen to be good at basketball?
Personally, I'd like to see the NBA adopt a set of draft eligibility rules similar to MLB's.
From the MLB website:
The Major League Rules govern which players are eligible for selection in the Draft. These Rules are detailed, but the basic eligibility criteria can be described as follows: Generally, a player is eligible for selection if the player is a resident of the United States or Canada and the player has never before signed a Major League or Minor League contract. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories of the United States are eligible for the Draft. Also considered residents are players who enroll in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are from originally.
Certain groups of players are ineligible for selection, generally because they are still in school. The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:
- High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
- College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and
- Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed
A Club generally retains the rights to sign a selected player until 11:59 PM (EDT) August 15, or until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college on a full-time basis. A player who is drafted and does not sign with the Club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year's Draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year's Draft. A Club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless the player has consented to the re-selection.
A player who is eligible to be selected and is passed over by every Club becomes a free agent and may sign with any Club until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college full-time or enters, or returns to, a junior college.
Basically, a player is eligible for the draft right after they graduate high school. If they choose to go this route, then that's fine -- that's their right. However, if a player gets drafted but doesn't sign with the team then they can go to college. After a player enrolls in college they must stay for at least three years.
I'm not sure three years would work in college basketball but I could see two years working nicely. This combines a two-year rule, that some people argue would be good for the game, but still allows those with the ability to go straight to the NBA the opportunity to do so.
Some may argue that players, who are too high on themselves, will still leave for the NBA way too early out of high school, sign a contract and fade into the abyss.
While that is true, think about the players that already do that after one year in college. Think about Omar Cook who left St. Johns after one year in college. He lit up the Big East for 15.3 points and 8.7 assists per game but he lacked a jump shot and appeared in just 27 NBA games.
What about Daniel Orton? Orton left UK after one year and showed promise as a defensive big man as DeMarcus Cousins' backup. He has struggled to find playing time once he was traded to Oklahoma City and it's unknown whether the team plans to keep him past this season.
My point is that forcing players to go to college for a year doesn't ensure that they will stay long enough to be productive once they are in the NBA. The sad truth is that players are going to make bad decisions to leave too early regardless of if they are in high school or in college for a year.
For the NBA, the implementation of the rule system that Major League Baseball has set up could be very beneficial.
Some players -- like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant -- are special, can't miss prospects regardless if they go to college for a year. For the others, they can have those two years in college basketball to develop into can't miss prospects.
Another factor that even further clouds the already muddy future of the one-and-done rule is the new academic rules that will go into place in 2016.
In May, the NCAA Division I board of directors approved new standards that will change the minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3. Also, players will be forced to finish 10-of-16 core classes before they begin their senior season in high school.
According to NCAA statistics, 43.1 percent of men's basketball players who matriculated in 2009-10 would not meet the 2016 requirements.
So what does this mean for the NBA and college basketball?
Well for one it makes going to Europe for a year look a lot more reasonable.
In 2008, USC commit and Oak Hill Academy superstar Brandon Jennings decided that playing in Europe would be his best route to the NBA. Jennings signed a 1.65 million dollar guaranteed contract to play professionally with Lottomatica Roma in Italy.
Jennings averaged 5.5 points, 2.2 assists and 1,5 steals in 17 minutes per game in Europe. In an e-mail message, Jennings told the New York Times that playing professionally was "tough" and that he was mostly treated like a kid.
"I don't see many kids doing it," Jennings' e-mail said. "It's tough man, I'll tell you that. It can break you."
Jennings went on to be drafted 10th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009 NBA draft. During his rookie year in the NBA, Jennings became the youngest player ever to score 55 points in an NBA game. But most importantly, he'd successfully set a path way for other high schoolers to follow if they chose.
When the academic standards raise in 2016, it's very possible that we will see many other basketball players decide to play in Europe.
While Jennings was able to succeed in Europe, another high schooler wasn't.
Jeremy Tyler, a 6'10 power forward from San Diego committed to Louisville in 2008. In 2009, he announced that he would skip his senior year of high school to play professionally abroad.
Tyler played only 10 games professionally in Israel before returning to California, but still he was too young to declare for the draft and his professional title cancelled any chance of playing college ball. In 2010 he signed with the Tokyo Apache in Japan. There he averaged 9.9 points and 6.4 rebounds in 15.4 minutes a game.
In the 2011 NBA Draft he was selected 39th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats but was traded moments later to the Golden State Warriors. His first two years in the NBA have been a struggle.
Tyler has appeared in just 20 games this year and is averaging 1.1 points on 37.5 percent shooting and it appears to most that his NBA career could be in jeopardy.
The 2016 academic standards upgrade is going to change the way players find their way to the NBA and Europe looks like it could become the popular choice.
Since Jennings and Tyler are our only "high-school-to-Europe" sample size, Jennings represents the best case scenario. Tyler, unfortunately, represents the worst case.
It would serve well both for the NBA and the college game for an MLB-like draft eligibility to be implemented before the academic standards raise.
If they had been in place four years ago, Jeremy Tyler could have applied for the draft, realized he wasn't going to be drafted high, then returned to college to develop for two years. How would his career be different if that had been the case?
It would take a lot of cooperation between a lot of stubborn parties to get a rule change passed -- NBA owners, the NBAPA, the NCAA -- but doesn't it at least try to solve the problem?
Back to Nerlens.
Don't get me wrong. If Nerlens Noel had never put on a UK jersey, he could still have gotten injured in the NBA -- I get that -- but in that scenario he would have already been financially secure.
Most people, even Nerlens, seem to think that his ACL surgery will be just a minor setback. He's been given a 6-8 month time-frame for return and scouts have barely nudged him in their mock drafts.
Only time will tell if everything plays out perfectly for the big man. I hope it does. But, even then, what if the injury had been worse? What if it had destroyed an opportunity for a young man to make a living playing pro basketball?
THEN would we be willing to talk about a rule change?
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