What to do about one-and-done? Go back to none-and-done

The first and second picks of the 2012 NBA draft? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Will these Kentucky Wildcats be the first and second picks of the 2012 NBA draft? Probably. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s a lousy rule. John Calipari says so. Even David Stern, whose rule it is, says so. It’s such a lousy rule that everybody insists it needs to be changed. Question is, to what?

The NCAA title was just taken by Kentucky, which is coached by Calipari, who has come to specialize in one-and-done players. (He has had at least one in each of the past four seasons and could have three this time.) Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, told USA Today last month that he had no quarrel with Calipari’s recruiting of one-and-done players, saying the coach was “operating inside the rules.” But this rule isn’t the NCAA’s.

The NBA implemented the rule in 2005 because the image-conscious league was tiring of seeing its scouts trolling for draftees in high school gyms. From 2001 through 2004, three of the players taken No. 1 overall were high schoolers. It wasn’t that such guys weren’t ready to play professionally — LeBron James and Dwight Howard did OK — as the unseemliness of it all. Did a billion-dollar enterprise want to make a practice of sinking millions into teenage talent?

This halting compromise was hatched: To be NBA-eligible, a player had to be at least 19 and one year out of high school. Stern, who’s the NBA commissioner, took pains this week to note that his league never said a player had to go to college, but that has been the effect.

Players who would otherwise have done a LeBron were forced to bide their time, and the best players have made that time the briefest possible. Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Derrick Favors: All were one-and-done. In 2010 Kentucky had four players leave after one season. This year he won it all with a team that could see freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist drafted first and second overall.

Some have cast Kentucky’s crown as validation of the one-and-done method, but such a coronation has long been inevitable. Ohio State lost in the 2007 final with three freshmen who would never play another collegiate game. Memphis lost in the 2008 final with Rose. (Calipari coached that team, too.) That it finally happened hasn’t changed anything. It has only brought the issue under greater focus.

Has one-and-done cheapened the college game? Absolutely. Institutions of higher learning have come to be seen as way stations. That’s not how the NCAA would choose to have it: For institutions of higher learning, seeing a few guys go directly to the pros beat the heck out of these cameo collegiate appearances.

To single out Kentucky is disingenuous. Every big-time program would take the players Calipari signs. The No. 1 NBA draftee in 2011 was Kyrie Irving, who worked 11 games for Duke before leaving; this year another Blue Devil — Austin Rivers, son of Doc — is bolting after one season. Kentucky and Calipari just happen to recruit better than anyone else, and if you recruit at the highest level you’re signing those most apt to be one-and-done.

The catch: If you sign one-and-dones, you have to keep signing more every year, and that’s not easy even if you’re Kentucky. After claiming his championship, Calipari said he hoped the NBA changed its eligibility rule within the week — so Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist would be back.

Stern said this week he’d prefer a two-and-done rule. Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, is plumping for three-and-done. Some prefer the baseball way: A player can sign with a pro team if drafted out of high school, but if he chooses to play in college he can’t be drafted again until after his junior season. Me, I don’t like any of those suggestions.

We know from LeBron and Dwight and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett that some guys are ready to join the NBA straight out of high school. To force such players to wait even longer before taking their talents to the professional level would be unfair and probably illegal. Bruce Springsteen didn’t have to spend three years in the Rutgers marching band before turning pro; why should someone who happens to be skilled in another performing art?

The best course would be to repeal the NBA’s rule and replace it with no rule, to return to the days where high schoolers could be drafted (and collegians could leave at any time). The NBA would never agree, especially not with a tightened salary cap: With fewer dollars to spend, teams want to invest in more, as opposed to less, proven products. To which I say: Too bad.

For better or worse, the NBA sits atop the basketball food chain. The NBA’s preference has served to diminish its chief feeder system. There was nothing unfair about high schoolers jumping to the pros; the pros just didn’t like it. Again, too bad. None-and-done isn’t ideal, but it trumps one-and-done.

By Mark Bradley

110 comments Add your comment


April 6th, 2012
5:08 pm

What’s up mark how’s the weather treating you


April 6th, 2012
5:19 pm

I’m with you Mark. A change is needed. I prefer something like the baseball rule or go back to what we had before the 19 year old rule.

Mark Bradley

April 6th, 2012
5:33 pm

I’m fine, jjm. Thanks for asking.

David Granger

April 6th, 2012
5:37 pm

I have to agree with you, Mark. If you change “One-and-Done”, you either go back to “None-and-Done” or else bump it up to “Two-and-Through”.
The only drawback to kids going straight from high school to the pros is that an awful lot of kids overestimate their ability to play in the NBA. Some will never have that ability, and some might after a couple of years of play at a strong Division-1 program. But ultimately it should be up to the kid himself.
For kids that go into just about anything else, we don’t require them to postone their entry for a year. Kids can skip high school and…if they have the ability…become computer programmers, web developers, run their own businesses, develop real estate, become writers, act on Broadway and in TV/Film. And some of them fail, too. But for some reason, we act as if athletes are too stupid to make their own choices and have to live with the results.


April 6th, 2012
5:46 pm

The NCAA could take control of this issue if they would. The current policy of one-year athletic scholarships should be changed to 5-year (4-year with graduation) contracts that bind both parties for the duration. If a kid doesn’t want to play under those rules, no one is forcing him. What this does most is binds the institution for player’s entire college costs. If he gets injured flunks out school, whatever, he is bound. And so is the institution. The current limits on the number of scholarships would probably have to be raised, but one and done or anything other than graduate and done would be over. This would honor the NCAA definition of players as student-athletes.


April 6th, 2012
5:47 pm

How about this? Everytime a player enters the NBA draft after just one year in school, that school loses a scholarship. That’ll put the onus on the coaches to recruit players who want to go to college, not ones that just want an NBA development league and pretty coeds.

Beast from the East

April 6th, 2012
5:49 pm

I’d prefer that all professional sports require a college degree. That will never happen, so I guess I’ll have to agree with Mark Cuban.

Beast from the East

April 6th, 2012
5:52 pm

How can you punish a school for an athlete deciding to turn pro? How is that the school’s decision?
If an MIT student decides to go to work for Microsoft after his freshman year, should MIT be fined?


April 6th, 2012
6:11 pm

heh heh, mark that is a terrible solution but the ncaa can change it if they want. why not go real old school ncaa and say freshman are ineligible because they need the year to adjust and make their grades. we forget the ncaa is using kids for gazillions and not giving a dime back to these kids while proffering that the education they get is more than enough of a pay back.

yeah ncaa, go old school and make all freshman ineligible even in football and really work to educate these kids rather than use them. that is why the ncaa are kind of mute on this one as they could control it and play to their proposed principal to combine education and sports. they cant get too “high falutin” without sounding like billy payne did talking about how others need to lead their lives and how the game of golf was deteriorating when over half of the potential golfers couldnt get to be a member and that is true for a lot of clubs and true an attitude for many males playing gold as though it is an entitlement to play and it hangs below the waist.

me, good junk in the trunk looks good standing over a golf ball. ;-) let em play. be a real sexist. yup, also hold em back ncaa and let them get an education then start to play.


April 6th, 2012
6:18 pm

Basketball, what-ever.

Now, women’s volleyball. That’s a sport.

Sonny Clusters

April 6th, 2012
6:24 pm

We was done before our time. We was ready to sign with Clemson and then one of us decided to play professional baseball and the other one decided second shift was looking better and better and we just signed on there instead of at Clemson. There’s no regrets except for not getting a tractor on the Clemson Graduates Get-a-Tractor and Landscaper’s Easy Payment Plan. We regret that but we understand you have to graduate Clemson to qualify and we opted for second shift so we was eliminated before we got started good.

Najeh Davenpoop

April 6th, 2012
6:36 pm

If they make it two and done or worse, there will probably just be more players going to Europe out of high school (like Brandon Jennings) or the D-League out of high school (like Latavious Williams).

Until they start paying the players, anything that hurts the NCAA is fine with me. Get rid of the age limit.


April 6th, 2012
6:38 pm

We always thought a Clusters was never done!! Coach always said to follow Clusters to the goal line.Of course if Clusters had that tractor he could cut the grass at the “Orange Jungle”.Glad your not in Kansas City.All Hail To Clusters!!!


April 6th, 2012
6:43 pm

The current system is a farce as far ast NCAA and “Student Athlete” goes. I would like to see the transcripts of these one-and-done student athletes!

Solution: Admit no student to a university to play sports unless that student passes all academic requirements of the university for non-athletes.


April 6th, 2012
6:45 pm

This just in- Chipper to replace Ann Curry on the “Today Show” in September.Details are sketchy but he is expected to recieve 20 million a year.Matt Lauer has requested to become a Buck Commander if Ryan Seacrest signs on also.More details to come!

Bob in SF

April 6th, 2012
6:46 pm

IMHO opinion the the D-league needs to be expanded and made a true minor league that reflects the philosophy of each team so players that are drafted out of high school have somewhere to develop besides the end of a NBA bench.

Legend of Len Barker

April 6th, 2012
7:03 pm

If the NCAA is really serious about valuing academics, they’d bring back the freshman rule.

Oh wait. The NCAA doesn’t really care about academic excellence. They were just scared they’d miss out completely on money-making athletes.

Oh wait. The NBA is fine with it because it’s a free minor league and an extra filter. Lessens their chances of drafting the next Kwame Brown.

Delbert D.

April 6th, 2012
7:12 pm

Mark, I’ve made it clear on several blogs that I abhor the corruption of a beautiful game. I am very glad to read your comments.


April 6th, 2012
7:13 pm

Mark, for the thousandth time…..you’re an idiot.

They should at the very least have the same rule as college baseball, or even better they should have the same rule as college football.

Over 95% of these kids are not ready for the pro’s after highschool, or even after one year of college. They should have to go to a college for at least 3 years, and then they can make the decision. It would imporve college basketball drastically, and would make it much more entertaining. It works for other sports, and there is no reason why it couldn’t work with college basketball.


April 6th, 2012
7:14 pm

I agree that it is condescending and obnoxious for the NBA to decree that its teams can’t draft the players they want, and for it to prohibit the most talented 18-year-olds from making a living, but the NBA is a private enterprise that can make any rule it wants (more or less). If you’re a player and don’t like the NBA rule, do something else with your life. If you’re a fan and don’t like the NBA rule, take your dollars elsewhere.

The NCAA, if it had any academic integrity, would do something about the system that lets a one-and-done skate through without even paying lip service to maintaining academic eligibility. But that’s obviously not going to happen.

All of that to say I agree with Bradley. The old way was better, but David Stern is a putz.


April 6th, 2012
7:28 pm

Silliness, this could be solved by the D-League like the European model. The problem is that too many of you (ACC, SEC, and other false prophet conferences) don’t want to see your golden teams render obsolete like the Ivy League football has become. Mark Cuban half touched on it when he ranted on it (the silly 3 year commitment solution) earlier this week. End this silliness, 1. make the cheap behind NBA fully fund and utilize the D-League as a true minor league, 2. create an alliance with the Chinese, European, and D-Leagues to transfer players and support league stability and end raiding. 3. the court has spoken on hardship, it is only a matter of time before some player files suit again and the NBA has to make another accommodation on the age issue. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle! and 4. end the NCAA D-1 monopoly of post high school talent; but I will say this make a kid choose, enter the D-League draft and give them 1-3 years to earn a NBA spot. If you don’t win a spot on a NBA roster, you can’t enter the league until your junior-senior class reaches the eligibility period. Like minor league baseball, I think you’ll be surprised the number of players who choose college. It will also weed out the players who generally have no business on a college campus!

Paul in NH

April 6th, 2012
8:00 pm

The whole concept that athletes need to go to college before playing professionally is ridiculous. Leo Messi, Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andres Iniesta and many more were all playing professionally at a high level before their 18th birthday.


April 6th, 2012
8:06 pm

There is no easy answer here but there are thousands of high school players with NBA dreams and one handful of those might make the leap to the NBA after their Senior High School year. To me that represents much worse odds than winning the lotteries. There has to be a method chosen where a highly selected group of high school graduates can qualify for NBA tryouts held regionally around the USA where these very skilled players can be reviewed and selected and designated as elgible for the NBA draft which should be moved so that it occurs in the Spring each year and those players chosen by the draft would determine their fate like the high school and college baseball players. They can then decide whether to sign a contact or accept a college offer and then use something like the baseball rule that they would not be elgible for the NBA draft until the end of their Sophomore or Junior years.

Paul in NH

April 6th, 2012
8:08 pm

Forcing kids to go to college if they want to play a sport professionally is ridiculous. Leo Messi, Thierry Henry, Andres Iniesta, David Beckham and lots more all played professionally at the highest level before their 18th birthday and they all seem to have done OK.
Of course, forcing high level athletes to be unpaid labor for university athletic associations is very lucrative for the university.


April 6th, 2012
8:32 pm

I think they need to do what baseball has done: let the NBA create a developmental league (didn’t they used to have one — maybe they still do) and let those players who do not want to go to college start there if they cannot make a current pro team. I’m tired of players who can barely make it into college cheapening and “representing” the college I attended. Most of the ones who leave early are not true student-athletes — they are just athletes waiting to go to the Pros. ESPN keeps saying that the quality of play in college has diminished because these players go to the pros and attendance is down — the reason I don’t go is because I want to see a real student-athlete playing sports for the college I love and with a passion to get an education. It would be interesting to see how many pro basketball players actually have degrees. There is nothing wrong with not having a degree and getting paid to play basketball — but let’s stop calling some of these guys “student-athletes” — really?

Jim 70

April 6th, 2012
8:52 pm

Kids leave early to make money, and the earlier they get to the NBA, the sooner they can become a free agent and get the big money. So change that rule – if a kid stays 4 years in college, he is a free agent in 3 years, but every year he comes out early it adds 2 years to the free agent deal.

This gives the NBA team time to work with a younger draftee, remember kwame brown.

So basically if a kid comes out a year early as compared to a panther who stas the extra year, the early out kid has to wait a physical year longer to be a free agent, but he does get paid an extra year.

So it is either money today but a longer wait for the fee agency money, or stay in school. But otherwise, who cares, a kid out of high school is no different than a one-and-done who probably either doesn’t go to class or takes basket-weaving, no disrespect to my wife who makes baskets!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 6th, 2012
8:56 pm

” Admit no student to a university to play sports unless that student passes all academic requirements of the university for non-athletes.”



April 6th, 2012
9:05 pm


who effin cares…..bunch of thugs in droopy pajamas

Bobby Latrine-Oh

April 6th, 2012
10:04 pm

First…I can’t get enough Bobby Petrino jokes. You gotta post another Latrine-Oh column. Please oh please oh please! How about we do a collaborative column and collect everyone’s best one liners?

I can’t stop imagining his stupid fake grinning plastic face suddenly flashing to a look of horror as he runs over a greasy discarded KFC bucket on his scooter. Suddenly, he and Blondie are getting face planted on the road and tumbling head over heels into a ditch. His neck brace is priceless. It’s COMEDY GOLD.

Bobby Latrine-Oh

April 6th, 2012
10:10 pm

Now…on the actual topic. I’m for the 3 year rule like the NFL has. I can’t imagine why the NCAA hasn’t lobbied hard to keep it that way too. That’s huge $$$ out of their coffers promoting stars that the NBA is taking before they’re ready.

Think about all the guys that have left early at 18 or 19 and how many of them were TRULY ready to be stars before their 3rd year in the league. There are probably less than 10 of them. Even Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett took 3 years to really get going. The guys that leave school as juniors and seniors who are stars, become stars relatively quickly. Look at Chris Paul and Tim Duncan, for instance. They were stars in year one. The only difference is that they aren’t getting paid. Well guess what? Neither was Maurice Clarrett or Mike Johnson and we see how that went in the NFL. Suck it up.

No one has the RIGHT to work at 18 if they aren’t qualified for the job. If the NBA really wanted to, they could just say 3 years past your last high school game. Period. That’s like me being a pretentious petulant 18 year old kid thinking he’s smart enough to come out of high school and work in a law firm. I would get laughed out of the building. The real problem is that the NBA wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want the money promoting stars, but they want them to be developed before they get there and not have draft busts. By the way, there is a HUGE HUGE number of draft busts that came out early that no one ever talks about. The success rate coming out early is actually about half as good….but no one ever talks about that. For instance, how good might Daequan Cook or Sebastian Telfair be now if they had actually learned the game under Coach K or Roy Williams? Probably a lot better.

Big D

April 6th, 2012
10:14 pm

We are talking about bouncy ball not something where a child can get hurt by adults. The bouncy ball people should be allowed to turn pro the same as baseball or ping pong or track and field or anyone of other junior sports.. The bouncy ball sport may require physical maturity for some to develop the necessary skills to effectively compete at a professional level but that should not be subject to the NCAA, Newspapers or anyone else. I think the bouncy ball people have it right. They are merely less dishonest in pretending their learning institution’s main purpose is to educate instead of earn money through their sports teams. BTW is bouncy ball season over yet?

Big D

April 6th, 2012
10:20 pm

” Admit no student to a university to play sports unless that student passes all academic requirements of the university for non-athletes.”

The above would end football in the SEC.


April 6th, 2012
10:32 pm

one and done was my rule when I was younger and dating on a regular basis, I like to think it was my choice but as I got older and seen a lot of my one timers married to doctors and such maybe it was their choice and figured me out early, being non commital and all, but thinking back that far can be tricky sometimes. Now I’m one n done on my good days but I still have my memories, I think.

Hillbilly D

April 6th, 2012
10:33 pm

I like the way baseball works. They pay for their own minor leagues. A guy coming out of high school can go to college or he can go to work, playing baseball, it’s up to him. Of course, the NCAA won’t like that idea because they’re afraid it would cost them money.

An interesting thing is what happened when Shawon Dunston, Jr was signed by the Chicago Cubs organization, last year. He wanted to go to Vanderbilt but he was offered a lot of money by the Cubs. His father, former MLB player Shawon Dunston told him, “You’re 19 years old and somebody wants to give you $1 million. Take it, you’ll have the money and you can go to college later”. His Dad had a point. Getting 7 figures at 18 or 19 can give you a leg up in life, if you’re smart enough to take advantage of it. If you aren’t you have nobody to blame but yourself.


April 6th, 2012
10:58 pm

Set up a minor league basketball association similar to what MLB has. The CBA existed for many years but was not a true developmental league; few advanced from the CBA to the NBA.


Give the high school basketball athlete the choice to (1) play within the NCAA, (2) play in the minor league basketball association, or (3) play in the NBA if drafted.

dawg fan man

April 6th, 2012
11:21 pm

My idea…. if drafted straight out of high school, must play in d-league one year…. or they can go to college for two years.


April 6th, 2012
11:30 pm

Mark, you probably need to start calling it “1/2 and done”. Do you really think any of these kids are doing school work their second semester. This whole system is making a mockery of the term “student athlete”. I just hope my team(GaTech), and new coach, take a different approach in putting a competitive team on the court.


April 6th, 2012
11:57 pm

Silly, the reason the NBA does not use the NFL rule is because two appeal courts have told them they are not allowed to do so! Haywood established the parameters of hardships. When Hershel Walker sued to get into the NFL Draft, the courts defined the physical maturity exception into the equation which created that exception and codified the “3 year rule.” Go read the Clarett opinion, it is right there in black and white. Major League baseball has great leeway because of their anti-trust exemption. They worked out the enter and play three seasons clause with the Amateur baseball, NJCAA, NCAA and MLB. There is no comparison!

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April 7th, 2012
7:47 am

How does the NFL get away with 3 and done?

Drexel Gal

April 7th, 2012
8:05 am

Face it: Some players are unable or unwilling (more likely) to make an academic commitment. Therefore, the NBA (and NFL) should adopt a DIFFERENT model from MLB and have minor league farm systems. That is not likely to happen, either, since both leagues use colleges as a free development league.


April 7th, 2012
8:06 am

Why can’t they just treat basketball like like baseball. If the kid drafted out of high school wants to go pro he can, but if he goes to college, he has to be there at least 3 years.

Bob the Blogger

April 7th, 2012
8:07 am

Several posters have already hit on the answer: turn the development league (D-league) into a true minor league modeled after baseball’s minor league. 18 year olds could either sign for a bonus and go pro, or go to college. I’d bet many of you had college classes that had college athletes in them. You’d see them the first day or two of class, and that was it! The whole college athlete thing has been a charade for decades.


April 7th, 2012
8:20 am

I like the baeball editon of the rule. Also if you turn 21 before your jr year you could also be drafted.

Coach Hoops

April 7th, 2012
8:32 am

The answer is simple. Make the minimum age for the NBA 20 years old(2 years after HS). Then offer a kid the choice to be drafted in the D-League for 2 year contracts if they dont want to attend college. This would make the D-League a “true” development league.

[...] was prepared to write one of those “stopped clock right twice-a-day” posts about Mark Bradley’s column on doing away with the NBA’s one-and-done rule, when his logic got in the way. Stern said [...]


April 7th, 2012
9:01 am

Mark: I don’t understand how you wouldn’t want the MLB model. It still allows the superstars to go straight out of high school but makes the others hone their craft in college for 3 years.

The kids who need to go straight out of high school WIN.
The kids who aren’t quite ready stay in school for 3 years and WIN.
College basketball WINS.

Perfect rule for all involved.


April 7th, 2012
9:09 am

Chasing the money…..for 99%, it is “fool’s gold” ’cause after they wash out of the NBA (even if they make it) after 4-5 years, they’ll be broke ( look at the stats), no education that will enable them to get a decent job and so on it will go. It really is tragic to have this much money flow through immature hands along with all of hangers-ons when they could be set for life. 4 years of college might help some but if they aren’t academically prepared to go to college, then they’ll flunk out anyway. No easy decision as to what should be done ’cause you cannot alter culture easily.


April 7th, 2012
9:15 am

When a college like Kentucky converts to a “one and done” system (ie we do not give a whit about seniority so we go with freshman every year- so there are five highschool players the coach can say will start if they come- and can leave when they are done) and the college says we don’t give a whit about our reputation (ie Kentucky could tell the coach to get 2 , or 3,or 4 year commitments), or coulld at least complain about having been transformed into a one year recruiting station for the NBA instead of bragging about the best one and done program, I do not have much time for a graduate of this “fine institution” blaming the NBA.