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More Responses To Bilas

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Responses To Bilas
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Here are a couple of more responses to Jay's column

I agree with much of what Jay Bilas said. I do think, however, that his
analysis that everyone should take the guaranteed money is somewhat
oversimplified. This is disappointing because I think that this same
analysis is what has driven many early departures to the NBA, some of which
are mistakes. To my mind, a more complete analysis should be performed,
which would go something like this:

(1) Where are you likely to go in the draft? There is a big dropoff in the
guaranteed money after the top 5 picks, and no guaranteed money at all for
the 2nd round. If there is not a good chance of going high, then you can
significantly improve the amount of guaranteed money if you can wait a year
or two and get drafted higher. This would seem to be more important now
that players are locked into their starting salaries for a longer period of

(2) How well developed is your game? If a player can further develop his
game by staying in college, that can help improve his draft status and help
him make more guaranteed money. See point 1 above.

Points one and two (and other similar points) highlight the real fallacy of
just saying that no one can pass up a guarantee of millions of dollars to
stay in school. The real question should be, how do you maximize the money
that you can get from the NBA? This is a question that I believe a lot of
players do not think about very hard before deciding to go pro. From this
standpoint, of the three Duke players that came out early, only Elton
Brand's decision could be said to be a no brainer. Even for Elton, I think
that there is a risk that his game is not developed enough for him to make a
big impact early. If he ends up sitting on the bench for a year or two,
that could have a big impact on his second contract. It only stands to
reason that if you perform like Tim Duncan in your first couple of years,
you will make much more money throughout your career than if you play 10-15
minutes your first couple of years.

I know that I frequently hear that the possibility of an injury in college
leads people to leave early. Again, in my view that is not a good reason to
turn pro. It is true that there are no guarantees in life, but all that we
can do is maximize our chances. I can't think of many players in the 25
years I have been following college basketball who have lost NBA money
because of an injury. Sports medicine is getting so good these days that
there are very few injuries that sideline you for good. Elton's recovery
from his foot injury is a good example. If you can make several million
dollars more by staying around for another year or two, you are foolish in
my opinion to throw that money away just on the very remore chance that you
might get hurt. You might also get hurt your first year in the NBA and
never develop into the type of player that really commands the big money.
Anyway, there always is insurance.

Finally, I would add a third question that a player should ask himself, even
if it doesn't involve money. (3) Do you enjoy being at school? Since a
player rarely risks lowering his draft position, he should stay in school if
he is having a good time. My impression of the NBA is that it is a lot
colder and harder on the psyche than being in college. On the other hand,
some people really do not enjoy school. If that's the case, leaving earlier
to do something that you enjoy more makes sense, even if you ultimately lose
money doing it.

I could add a lot more, but will stop by noting that I do totally agree that
we are being selfish by getting mad at players who leave college early or
who go straight to the NBA. I can't blame anyone who makes that decision
since I would jump at a similar chance. I just think that players should
not make short sighted or ill informed choices, but actually do what is best
for them.

Matt Estes, Class of 1980

The NBA and the NCAA would both be wise to encourage the formation
of a basketball minor league. Much of the focus on the dire straits of the
sport of college basketball seems to forget that the people who play the
sport are not, in reality, the most important part of the game. College
basketball would survive as a sport, even if none of its players ever made
it into the NBA.

Fans cheer for teams. On game day a Duke fan is a Duke fan, whether
the players are Grant Hill and Christian Laettner, or Chris Collins and Greg
Newton. Does losing to UConn in 1999 hurt more or less than losing to
Arkansas in 1994 now that three players turned pro early? I wager that
early departures have little to do with deciding which game came closer to
breaking your heart. Fans are loyal to Duke, and always will be.

A viable minor league system will only strengthen the college game.
Not every talented athlete will choose the minor league system. Some will
want the college experience. But those who have no interest in college
other than as a gateway to riches can opt for another less hypocritical
gateway that will not leave college hoops fans feeling slightly dirty for
supporting a system they decry. No drop-off in talent on either side will
ever make me stop chanting "Go To Hell, Carolina!"

The college game is not and never has been a game where only
individual performances count. How does New Mexico State sell out every
game? Did Eric Meek, Marty Clark, Thomas Hill, Wojo, Bryan Davis, Taymon
Domzalski, or any of the scores of other Duke players with non- or
short-lived NBA careers ever give you any doubts about the beauty of the
game in the way Will Avery or Corey Maggette did?

College basketball will endure long after an alternative path is
established for those who choose not participate in college athletics. Give
players an option so we won't scapegoat them for not having the same loyalty
to the team that fans will always have.

Randy Grayson