Friday, March 27, 2009

Mullens to the NBA . . . DL

It's march which means aside from the college basketball madness, it's time for the annual migration of Ohio State freshmen to the NBA. This year, Canal Winchester's own BJ Mullens has decided to follow in the footsteps of such luminaries as Greg Oden and Kosta Koufos and take his unique skill set, and by unique skill set I mean 7 foot frame, to the NBA. A few quick thoughts:

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.
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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.

8 comments:

lenny k said...

This is the harsh reality of college basketball, i agree with you that it makes fans feel unattached to their respective schools-players coming and going for 1 year makes it hard for the fan to feel a connection to the school. Most big time basketball programs do brandish 3-4 year players, but it goes unnoticed with the hype of the 1 and done players that have taken aim to the nba recently. im not sure i have any solutions either- millions being dangled in front of 18-19 yr olds is tough for these kids to pass up doing the same thing they would be doing in school the next year. I know i'd be looking to cash in asap if i had the athletic whereabouts of these college hoops players.

One question though, why do you say Oden is miserble in the nba?

Mikey said...

I recommend cheering for a more local NCAA basketball team such as Cleveland St. Akron or Kent st. These are quality programs in which you feel connection to as the players stay all years and develop their games to have supurb senior seasons. This is one of the reasons i dont follow most major programs, b/c of the of the 1 year in college and gone happens pretty often.

Biff said...

Lenny:

Oden is being crushed under the weight of his own hype. He's getting dogged by both the national and local Portland media, he's always injured, and even when he does play, he can't stay on the court becuase of foul trouble.

By most accounts, Oden has gone from a gregarious 20 year old to a depressed, reclusive 21 year-old. Portland has even had to put the word out to give him the kid gloves treatment so he doesn't completely crumble.

My guess is he would be having more fun right now playing in the big dance, drinking beer and hooking up with coeds. But, like I said, I understand why he had to take the money.

lenny k said...

Ya,good points, its a double sided sword- take the money and get killed by the media or stay in college and have fun- not a millionaire. His injuries would have hampered his college career as well, but i suppose we'll never know. Its an unfortunate situation forhim, especially with the injuries he has faced- but dont feel bad for him at all b/c the scrutiny comes with the millions he makes.

The Talented Lamond Murray said...

I would have liked to see Mullens stick around for another year, but its his right to chase that NBA dream. It's frustrating to see these big guys leave campus after a year, but according to this article(http://www.fanhouse.com/news/ncaa-tournament/bj-mullens-jumping-to-nba/400977) Mullens and his family could use the money. After watching him play this year it was hard for me to see how he was the #1 ranked player in his class. He'll get drafted and sit and learn and perhaps become a serviceable big man in the mold of Joel Prybillza.

JWGuidinger said...

While I agree with you that it makes sense for these kids to jump to the NBA because they get a bunch of money up front and they get a jump on free agency, you cannot tell me that they develop better as players on an NBA bench. Yes, they might be playing against better players in practice, but they are not getting the type of real game experience and skill development that you get in college. Yes, there are exceptions, but you can't convince me that guys like Grant Hill and Tim Duncan were better off on an NBA bench instead of working on their games and taking their teams deep in the tournament. You don't think Sebastian Telfair would have benefitted just a little from running the point for a few years under a demanding and exacting college taskmaster?

Biff said...

The Telfair point might be fair but at the same time, I don't think he would have benefit from college in a real basketball sense. I just think he would have matured as a person to the point where he could have entered the NBA and been ready to accept coaching. Then again, there's a better chance he would've just left a trail of recruiting violations, disciplinary issues, and deflowered coeds.

Guy Average said...

Mullens didn't show it much at OSU, but I watched him a lot in high school and he can run and has excellent feet. He needs to develop his talents, but the NBA drafts on potential. If BJ gets drafted it will be an indicator of what the NBA guys think he can do. There are a lot of potential landmines in his future, including his family members, but if he can negotiate those he could easily be a 10-15 year player.