Commentary: One-and-done era turning college hoops into a joke

FWS, or, as it is more commonly known, Football Withdrawal Syndrome, seems to be an all-time high this year.

Since the Denver Broncos hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 50 a few weeks ago, there has been nothing worthy of keeping sports fans happy.

The Daytona 500 and the start of the NASCAR season? Come on.

The NBA regular season? No way. The playoffs are what everyone really waits for.

The NHL? (Crickets can be heard chirping at this point).

OK, what about college basketball?

There was a time when NCAA hoops was a pretty potent remedy for FWS. Teams like Georgetown, St. John’s, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and Indiana – just to name a few – were loaded with talented, young athletes that fans could watch develop over the course of their college careers.

Now, however, college basketball is essentially a three-week affair that is more about winning an office pool than watching the athletes involved.

Welcome to the one-and-done era, where college basketball players are around the game only long enough for fans to barely get to know them before they are bound for the NBA.

According to NBA bylaws, all players who declare for the NBA draft must be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school graduation.

This wasn’t always the case. Players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James are just a few players who went straight from high school to the NBA.

However, in 2006 the NBA implemented the new age limit because officials felt high school athletes were simply not ready for the rigors of the pro game and they felt pro scouts needed to be kept out of the high schools.

But while the decree was noble in nature, and was supposed to help both the NBA and the NCAA, the plan has not worked.

Sure, thanks to the one-and-done era, NCAA basketball – more specifically the Final Four tournament – got to see the likes of stars such as Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and, most recently, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jabari Parker. Players such as these would have surely skipped college had they not been forced to attend for at least a year.

However, thanks to the era, the college game has become a complete joke.

A case in point is LSU and freshman star Ben Simmons.

In a loss to Tennessee last week, Simmons came off the bench after LSU coach Johnny Jones sat him for a quarter for “academic issues.”

The bottom line: Simmons is failing his classes. But so what? What does he care? Why should LSU care? In a few short weeks he can declare for the NBA and it won’t make a bit of difference if he had the grades during his short stay in Baton Rouge.

The real tragedy, however, is that if the rules had been different, Simmons could have already been in the NBA and LSU could have offered a scholarship to an athlete who might have appreciated the chance to receive a college education. An athlete who might have jumped at the chance to help make LSU a better program in the long term rather than someone who was only there biding his time until the cash flowed in.

The NBA needs to desperately go back to the old days and allow high school blue chippers to enter the NBA draft.

Yes, by doing so the college game may be deprived of some amazing talent. But, at the same time, it will allow more talent to develop at the college level, which will benefit both the NCAA and, eventually, the NBA.

It seems pretty simple, no?

Apparently not to those who have the power to make a difference.

Oh, well. The NFL Hall of Fame Game is only 162 days away.

Dave Favila is sports editor at the Valley Morning Star. Follow him on Twitter @dfavila