1. I've seen plenty of Ohio State fans who just can't wait to tell anyone who will listen that Mullens isn't ready for the pros. Oh really doctor? You think so? You mean to tell me a soft big man with a questionable attitude and work ethic, who got pushed around in the Big 10 and averaged 9 and 5 isn't ready to play against the likes of Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard? These folks must be privy to some sort of inside information or scouting reports because I personally can't see any reason why he can't step in to the league and make an immediate impact. It's a can't miss!
2. This is all part of the reason that bigtime college basketball isn't what it should be. Every year, major programs have to roll out a new cast of characters for their fans to connect with. Sure, there are talented guys like Tyler Hansborough and, um, Tyler Hansborough that stay for multiple years, but most of the premium talents that come through the college game aren't even there long enough to make an impact. When the NBA came up with the 19 rule, I loved it. I thought it meant that we would finally get to see guys like Lebron and Kobe take on the college game. As it turns out, the rule is causing some serious damage to the sport. For every Carmello Anthony or Kevin Durant that actually makes a memorable impact on their campus, there are a host of Michael Beasleys, O.J. Mayos, and Eric Gordons whose time in college is mostly forgettable.
3. Anyone who calls out one of these kids for jumping early is absolutely absurd. If I'm a 19 year old college freshman and someone is offering to guarantee me a couple of million dollars to show up to practice and sit on the bench for a couple of years, that's a pretty easy decision. Now, I presume that being a star athlete on a college campus is certainly more fun and entertaining than essentially being lost and alone in the NBA, but you have to look at the big picture. Financial security is everything. Sure you might be miserable (as I assume Greg Oden is and I presume BJ Mullens will be) for a while but it's got to be worth it. If you're smart, you'll never have to worry about puting food on the table again. And please, don't give me the lecture about not having a college education to fall back on. How much does the average person coming out of Ohio State with an undergraduate degree make? 40k a year? I think I'll take my chances with the guaranteed millions.
4. There are two other considerations that make jumping early a prudent move for these kids, aside from just the first contract: First, a player can get better faster sitting on the bench in the NBA than he can playing in college. I know that sounds counterintuitive but the level of coaching, training, and practice competition in the NBA is such that players can improve faster by jumping early, even if they're essentially glued to the bench. J.J. Hickson will be a better NBA player at 21 than he would have been if he had decided to stay at NC State for 3 years before entering the league. People love to spout off about how college seasoning is necessary to prepare a player for the next level, and that may be true in terms of immediate impact, but, if you're comparing a player's ability based on age, and not number of years in the league, I would be certain that most players improve more quickly on an NBA bench than they do playing in college games. Second, the way the NBA pay scale is structured, it's important for a player to start accruing his time in the league so that he can hit restricted free agency and get on to that second contract. As long as a player is genuinely talented, it makes sense to get those years accruing as soon as possible.
5. I hate seing NBA benches filled with underdeveloped young players who have no business occupying roster spots on NBA teams. That being said, the 19 rule is completely discriminatory and unfair. There is absolutely no legitimate business reason that players shouldn't be allowed to be drafted out of high school. This isn't the NFL. There is no genuine safety concern associated with allowing young kids to play in the NBA. They may not be mature enough to deal with the money and the fame, but physically, they're not endangering themselves by stepping out onto the court with bigger, stronger guys. They may get knocked around but their safety won't be in jeopardy. So, essentially, the rule tells young, predominately African American kids, that they can't pursue their careers, and accept the millions of dollars that general managers are knowingly craving to pay them, for no good reason at all. It's baseless, it's unfair, and it should be abolished.
6. As an Ohio State basketball fan, I'm finding it harder and harder to care about the program. Of course I enjoyed the ride from the Oden-Conley-Cook class but the whole thing was a little contrived. I may have enjoyed seeing an Ohio State jersey at the final four but I certainly didn't feel much of a connection to the team. Winning is always fun but watching your school act as a halfway house for NBA-bound prospects isn't really quite the fulfillment that most people are seeking through sport. Obviously, sentiments like these put a guy like That Matta between a rock and a hard place: Ignore the blue chippers and fans will get on you about recruiting. Lock down the Mullens and Koufos's of the world and people will get upset that your program lacks continuity. Based on the recruits that have already signed on for future classes, it looks like Matta is going to try to keep winning with mega-prospects as he's already received committment from Scout.com's #1 center, Jared Sullinger, and #2 PF, Deshaun Thomas, for the class of 2010.
Given the transient nature of major college programs, I'm sad that the Big Dance doesn't really have a Cinderella this year. For me, the plight of the underdog is one of the few compelling stories left in the college game. Unfortunately, I don't think the situation will improve until the NBA either abolishes the age limit or moves it to 21. I'm interested to hear how the rest of you feel about this.