When the NBA made the decision that all of its athletes must be 19 years of age or older back in 2005, it had good intentions. The league wanted to stop athletes from forgoing higher education altogether before beginning their professional careers. Requiring them to experience at least one year of college seemed like a fair solution.
But this ruling spawned a subset of players who use their one year on campus as a brief rest stop before jumping back onto the highway to the pros. They're highly recruited high school stars whose names come up in NBA Draft conversation long before they play their first college game—like Derrick Rose, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel. Often referred to as the "one-and-done's," they grow in number every year.
Many of this year's top high school players are likely to go the same route, with top recruits Andrew and Aaron Harrison (who are twin brothers), Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins seeming locks to bolt for the NBA after their mandatory season of college ball in 2014.
But wait. There's an exception. Blue chip prospect Jabari Parker says he wants to change the paradigm.
Parker, a 6'8" forward from Chicago who's considered the #2 high school player in the nation, heads to Duke this fall. Many assume he'll enter the NBA Draft the following June. But by the way Parker talks, he could become one of the first high profile college athletes to buck the one-and-done trend.
"I think college gives you a chance to really mature, form yourself and build relationships," Parker says. "When you build relationships, it shows on the court and brings out success."
"I love the idea of staying in college because I want to take advantage of getting a free education," he adds.
In fact, the former Simeon Career Academy star appeared to bristle at the idea of going to a school like Kentucky, which the Harrison twins and Randle have committed to, and where one-and-done's have become the norm.
"The whole attitude and approach of the one-and-done's, that's good for them, that's their decision," Parker says. "But going to Duke is real special for me, because people out of my neighborhood probably wouldn't have even thought about getting an education like that. I'm just looking at different opportunities where I can grow."
Whether Parker backs up his talk with action remains to be seen. The lure of the NBA (and the paycheck that comes with it) is a strong one. But if someone as talented as Parker decides to stay in school, it could change the landscape of college basketball in a big way.
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