Rule benefits basketball at both levels

March Madness is fast approaching, and a handful of this year’s “Diaper Dandies” have their teams poised to make deep runs into the tournament.

Kentucky’s John Wall, Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors and Kansas’ Xavier Henry are three of the most stellar freshman in the country, and each is considered by many college basketball experts a lock to be a one-and-done collegiate player.

Five years ago, we might not have seen that trio — or any number of other amazing one-year wonders such as Kevin Durant or Derrick Rose — in college, as players with that much talent usually declared themselves eligible for the NBA draft.

But heading into the 2006 draft, the NBA implemented a policy to keep high school players from entering.

The rule states that a player must be either 19 years old (which applies to foreign players) or must be at least one year removed from his high school graduation to enter the draft.

The league instituted the rule as a way of keeping high school players who weren’t prepared to play in the pros from basically throwing their careers away by jumping into the NBA too soon.

More than four years later, the rule has proved to be a mostly successful deterrent in keeping unprepared players out of the league.

Opponents of the rule change point to Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James as examples of how some players don’t need a year in college to prepare them for the next level.

But what those people won’t point out is that for every Bryant, Garnett or James, there was a Gerald Green (picked 18th in 2005), Sebastian Telfair (drafted 13th overall in 2004) or Ndudi Ebi (selected 26th in 2004) who ruined any chance they might have had at a pro career by declaring for the draft out of high school.

It can be convenient to only look at the success stories, but it’s pertinent to examine the failures.

From the 2000-05 NBA drafts, there were a total of 350 picks, 30 of which were spent on high school players.

Looking through the names, James and a handful of others stand out. But who honestly knows anything about Ricky Sanchez or Robert Swift (both of whom are now out of the league)?

The rule not only protects young players, but also makes college basketball a better sport to watch.

Smaller schools benefit from trotting out lineups filled with experienced three- and four-year starters against big-name programs filled with one-year players.

Three of the past four March Madness tournaments have featured at least one double-digit seed playing past the first two rounds of the tournament.

And thanks to the NBA’s rule, which has kept players such as Wall from turning pro out of high school, we should be headed for another memorable tourne*y again this year.

Who knows? Maybe even Aubrey Coleman and the Cougars could shock the world.

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