Our View: Now there are two

Posted: April 7, 2014

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, as is generally the case, has provided America’s sports-mad public plenty of thrills over this “March Madness” fortnight — many of them courtesy of Kentucky’s buzzer-beating young Wildcats, who play Connecticut tonight for the national championship.

Thus, now is hardly the time, perhaps, to call into question the prevailing NCAA culture that allows Kentucky coach John Calipari to build teams — or at least starting fives — composed largely of high-profile freshmen who leave Lexington after a year for fame or at least fortune in the NBA.

Or maybe it is time to question this practice, known largely as “one-and-done.” For Mr. Calipari, the approach results either in feast (as in this year) or famine, when his frosh-filled team fails to coalesce in time for a tournament run. For the whole of college basketball, it is just a bad diet, as it seems to contradict the endlessly cultivated notion of the “student-athlete” the NCAA so cloyingly advances at its signature events (Hint: Journalists never interview “basketball players,” but rather “student-athletes”).

That trope gets old after a while (as most tropes do), but especially when players at certain schools are more temporary help, or gunslingers, than “student-athletes.” Kentucky is only the most obvious example, but the ’Cats are hardly alone. More and more schools are sacrificing whatever academic reputations they have left for a shot (literally) at March Madness Magic.

Maybe the day has come for the basketball world to take a cue from baseball: Allow kids to be drafted out of high school — believe us, the LeBrons and Kobes are ready — start a true NBA farm system or developmental league, and make it so no youngster, if he chooses to play in college, can be drafted until after his junior year.

Yes, nix “one-and-done,” and restore some legitimacy to the term “student-athlete.”