The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Posted by: Van Walker

The revolution will not be televised.

It will not be gushed over by Dickie V. or narrated by Jim Nantz. It will not happen on Big Monday. It will not occur during a pre-season holiday tournament in Hawaii. It will not generate office pools.

This time, there will be no stopping the revolution, not without creating something so draconian, so restrictive, that even the dullest observer will be moved to outrage.

The revolution is this: high school basketball players are beginning to realize that there are more options available to them than waiting for the NBA to open its doors to them, that they don’t have to risk injury or stunted improvement while serving as slaves to the NCAA.

The European Invasion has begun.

Last season, top recruit Brandon Jennings did NOT go the usual route: one season of college basketball apprenticeship before finally beginning his NBA career. Instead, he chose to go to Europe and play professionally for a season.

His reasons are as honest as his game. Why put up with the sham college basketball? The NCAA has archaic limits on coach/player interaction, because the athletes are expected to be students first. Worse, the NCAA enacts limits on what a student/athlete can earn; make too much money on the side and the NCAA will strip one’s eligibility. So, a player with a genuine NBA future can’t get as much direct coaching as he might need, can’t take anything but a part-time job making chump change, and must maintain the fiction of a schedule to keep his eligibility.

In Jennings’ case, the benefits are immediate: he gets paid , not much by NBA standards, but how many of us can walk into a six-figure-per-annum job right out of high school? He gets the benefit of as much direct coaching as he can stand. He plays, not against the same kids he abused in high school, but against grown men with families to feed, some of whom are NBA-caliber. He doesn’t have to go to school, but instead is having his horizons broadened by living in a foreign country.

And he will still become a lottery pick in the upcoming draft, much better prepared for the rigors of an NBA season. This is not a rhetorical question: which do you really think prepares a young man for the NBA – a short season playing in the ACC and slapping Florida State around twice a year, or a long season playing in Europe against fellow professionals?

This season, Jeremy Tyler is taking it one step further: he’s skipping his entire senior year of high school to play in Europe.

And it makes perfect sense.

Tyler is not going to get better at his current school, because there is no one of his stature for him to hone his game against. He has no intention of going to college, so his senior year of high school is virtually meaningless: any way you cut it, whether he stays at his current school or goes to one of those basketball boot camps out east (think Oak Hill Academy), the fact is that he still wouldn’t play many people of his ability…and he would remain broke in either situation.

Just like Jennings, Tyler will only get better by playing against grown men his own size in a real, professional context. He will make significantly more than if he’d played for free for a AAU team and then played for free for good ol’ State U. He will complete as much education as he is interested in. And when he finally becomes draft-eligible in 2011, he will have two seasons of professional basketball already under his belt.

For anyone weeping about his education, let’s not forget that this young man will be very, very rich. He can afford to go to any school he chooses, if he chooses. Let’s not forget that some of the finest educations in the world did not prevent the recent market collapse. Let’s not forget that a Hofstra degree did not stop Bernie Madoff from fudging the figures and stealing millions. If, as some contend, the purpose of college is to give someone the chance at a better life, Tyler already has it and doesn’t have to sweat midterms or finals.

For anyone still weeping about his education, one wonders where you were when Hilary Duff or Miley Cyrus became famous because they were much younger than either Tyler or Jennings when they became professionals in their field. It’s okay for someone to sing before they are 20 or rap before they are 20 or even play minor league professional baseball after signing a multimillion dollar contract, all before becoming 20…but apparently, letting a kid play pro basketball at the same age and for the same money is unconscionable. We worry so much about our “inner-city youth” (read: black kids) who can’t read, yet we have no problem letting Dominican teenagers who can’t read or speak English bat third.

It’s simply hypocrisy.

I applaud both Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler, and I sincerely hope that others like them will go abroad to play. The NCAA markets guys like Blake Griffin and Kalin Lucas and Tyler Hansbrough and makes billions from them, and all the aforementioned will get is a degree from their respective universities if they graduate. Yes, but they are getting an education which is priceless, you might argue; there’s no limit on what they can earn with a B.A. from Northeast Whatever…to which I’d disagree. A university education is not priceless, it’s pricey. There’s no guarantee that anyone graduating from Duke will earn what Jeremy Tyler will earn in the next two seasons, and it’s almost a mortal lock that virtually no one from any big school will be earning what Tyler will earn in his first NBA contract.

The revolution will not be televised, but it can’t be stopped this time.

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