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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Martelli Rule

I heard a snippet on ESPN Radio in Philadelphia this morning while driving to work. Afternoon drive-time show host Mike Missanelli was interviewing Martelli, who gave his views on college basketball and the NBA's requirement that (in essence) requires high-school seniors to go to college for one year before pursuing a pro career.

Martelli's prescription: that the NBA should have the same rules that Major League Baseball does. Require high school kids to either go pro out of high school or stay for three years in college before being eligible for the draft again. In this fashion, the creme will go pro right away, and the rest will go to college for appropriate seasoning. Sure, there's a risk that too many kids will opt for the draft out of high-school, but once they hear the stories of the Korleone Youngs of the world they might think differently.

The NBA's current set of rules is bad for colleges and college basketball. While every coach should want to recruit the top talent, most are sensible enough to realize that recruiting top-10 talent means you'll only get a kid for a year. It's hard to build a program that's rooted in transcience, and that's what you'd have should you recruit too many "one and done" players. Put differently, the NBA benefits from this rule; colleges don't.

Major college coaches are left in an awful conundrum. Recruit the top talent and risk having bad continuity in your program. Fail to recruit the top talent, and you might miss out on that one player who for one year (Carmelo Anthony comes to mind) could help take your program to the Final Four. Worse, decline to recruit that player because of continuity issues, and then watch your rival take him and get to the Final Four.

Martelli's rule makes sense. Despite the NBA's rigidity, some players (Dwight Howard, LeBron James) are ready to go straight to the pros. They belong there and shouldn't be compelled to go to college for a year today. The remainder should commit to college for three years, get seasoned, and then be eligible for the NBA draft. As a silver lining, they'll have three years' worth of credits toward a degree and could easily go back to complete their education. That is, of course, if the kids today are actually expected to go to class and make progress in meaningful subjects.

What say you NBA, NCAA?


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