Adam Gold

Duke's recruiting haul a winner

Posted November 22, 2013

This certainly has been a banner fall for Duke Athletics. David Cutcliffe's football team is ranked among the nation's top 25 and is poised for their greatest season in post-World War II college football.

The field hockey team is in the national semifinals in Norfolk, VA. Joanne P. McCallie's Lady Blue Devils are ranked second in the nation and might have the best chance to reach the Final Four since she took over the program seven years ago. And of course, there's men's basketball – where even a loss to highly-ranked Kansas can't seem to slow down the early-season momentum for Mike Krzyzewski's program.

Thursday, even as the current Blue Devils were preparing for a Sunday game with Vermont followed by a trip to New York and a potential meeting with Arizona, another serious national contender, Coach K was winning big in recruiting.

Just a few days after Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones – the best big man and point guard in the 2014 class – committed to the Devils, top-15 recruit Justice Winslow announced his intention to join them in Durham. Add slick-shooting guard Grayson Allen from Florida to the mix and you have a four-man class that will be as heralded as any in the Kryzyzewski era at Duke.

However, for all this class' greatness and potential, there comes with it a bit of hypocrisy. Not from the school or the players though, the double-talk will come from members of the hyper-critical media and fans throughout the country. While I'm not interested in speculating about just how quickly some of those players will leave school for careers in professional basketball, the reality tells us that the best players usually leave for the NBA after just one year.

Kyrie Irving was only around for 10 games. Austin Rivers never saw his sophomore season (yes, that was probably a welcome development for some of his teammates, but you understand the point). And, I think we'll all raise an eyebrow, not to mention a glass of something, if the sensational Jabari Parker opts for another amateur season rather than a top-3 slot in the draft. As for the Okafor-Jones-Winslow troika, who knows what their plans are, but it wouldn't register on the Richter scale if any of the three opted for early exits as well.

Again, I'm not speculating as to their intentions and I'm not even saying that any of them are good enough to graduate to that level of basketball so quickly as I have never seen any of them in short pants. Historically speaking, however, almost half of the players in the consensus top ten of recruiting rankings spend just one season at the college level before making the leap to the pros. And, as evidenced above, Duke is not immune to this phenomenon.

When this happens at Kentucky, where John Calipari is the lightning rod for all that ills the college game, it's evidence of a sport in crisis. 'Oh, there goes Calipari again, with his one-and-done kids, ruining college basketball.'

When Calipari's fingerprints are on it, we have to do something about it. When it happens to Roy Williams (Marvin Williams or Branden Wright) or Coach K, well, you get the picture.

Let me tell you this much – players who only stay for one season in college basketball absolutely do NOT hurt the game. Players who leave after their freshman year because an NBA team is willing to invest millions of dollars in their futures greatly HELP college basketball. The ACC, the SEC, the Big East (is that still a thing?) and the NCAA overall are better off with those players for one season than not having them grace their courts at all. You tell me, would the Champions Classic have been a better event without Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker?

Would those two games have drawn so much attention, created so much conversation had all three of them already been dribbling around for the Kings, Raptors or Pelicans?

Of course not.

Unlike many coaches and fans, I'm not against players leaving after one season of college basketball. In fact, the only part of the "one-and-done" element I detest is the name. It carries a negative connotation that serves no effective purpose and only aids in labeling the player as selfish, only reluctantly stopping over to play in college because his other options aren't any better.

That's patently unfair. Every single young man is different, with different dreams, goals, values, etc. To put them all under the same banner is simple-minded and a "you" problem. Remember, this is NOT a college rule, this is part of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. In order to be eligible for the NBA draft, a player must be one year removed from his high school graduation.

However, he doesn't have to go to college. He could play professionally overseas, as current Pistons guard Brandon Jennings did, or you could play in the NBA's developmental league. Both are options for players not interested in playing the one season in college, but I'd stop far short of declaring them better options.

Frankly, I wish players could turn professional immediately after high school as LeBron James was allowed to do a decade ago, for I am in favor of allowing adults the freedom to make their own decisions. However, I'm absolutely against forcing players to stay in school for an additional year lobbied for by so many coaches  – similar to the "baseball" rule where Major League Baseball's draft guidelines state that once a player enters a four-year college he is ineligible for the draft until after his junior season.

In reality, the only real loser here is the educational process, but if you've been paying attention to major college athletics, especially among the for-profit sports, we've just about written that off as a loss-leader.

Of course, there are more important things in life than a college education, which didn't exactly help Bill Gates or Larry King along their roads to fame and (varying degrees of) fortune. In most cases, it's the life experiences, the maturation that comes with your first taste of independence that is the greatest benefit gained from the college experience.

As fans, we'll all get over the rapid departure of the Parkers, Randles, Wiggins and maybe Okafors of the world. As long as the rules don't change again, we'll find more of them next year and the year after that and the year after that and the year after that. And, we'll all be okay with it, as long as they don't play for John Calipari. THEN, we've got a problem.

26 Comments

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  • fbe Nov 25, 11:23 a.m.

    I hope these young men can play defense.

  • QC Nov 25, 10:40 a.m.

    So P.J. cannot drive rental cars, but K can lure recruits to Durham with Olympic Team invitations. Oh, sure, that's a fair recruiting policy.

  • DEVILS1 Nov 23, 4:39 p.m.

    Why does Coach K sit on the bench during tense game moments and gnaw on his hands like a rat or... View More

    — Posted by Euro American

    Because Roy is the cheese I guess....

  • dave437 Nov 23, 8:25 a.m.

    More importantly, is UNC out-recruiting Belmont? They got some catching up to do...

  • sburks1906 Nov 22, 9:37 p.m.

    As an NCSU alum and Duke hater, I have to give props to Coach K. He is a modern-day John Wooden who has his pick of the All-American litter.

    http://theklowntimes.net/2011/11/16/coach-k-is-the-greatest-college-coach-of-all-time/

  • 123skipjack Nov 22, 6:05 p.m.

    Why does Coach K sit on the bench during tense game moments and gnaw on his hands like a rat or... View More

    — Posted by Euro American

    ...He doesn't do that when Duke plays NCSU. Doesn't need to worry about winning the game, it is a given.

  • LanzThomaz Nov 22, 5:53 p.m.

    I think most of this is spot on. What I would add, however, is that much animosity towards... View More

    — Posted by cmandelin

    Calipari has never been in hot water with the NCAA. I've never heard any allegation of "fuzzy... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    You don't think having two final fours vacated by the NCAA is NCAA hot water?

    — Posted by heelsforever

    Has he ever been accused of wrongdoing? What fuzzy recruiting tactics are you referring to?

    As... View More

    — Posted by Ken D.

    Ken, we have land in South Florida for you. I'll bet you've never heard of World Wide Wes?

  • kmorbelmont Nov 22, 4:49 p.m.

    HE is the the greatest coach and person in sports i have ever seen. Wish Roy was more like him,... View More

    — Posted by heelgrad1978

    God you are the Best UNC fan ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • heelgrad1978 Nov 22, 3:58 p.m.

    HE is the the greatest coach and person in sports i have ever seen. Wish Roy was more like him, Dean too.

  • cmandelin Nov 22, 3:55 p.m.

    The only difference between Coach 100K and Calipari is Calipari recruits with cash, and Kay with... View More

    — Posted by noonya

    ...based on what, exactly? You (and only you) seem to have evidence to this?

    If the NCAA violations happened on Calipari's watch once, OK, coincidence....but twice he had to have wins vacated? He may not have been "implicated" but he is definitely associated.

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