Last night’s NBA draft saw yet another impressive group of athletes make the jump from college to the professional level. The 2012 national champion Kentucky Wildcats saw a record six players selected in the first round, including the number one and two overall picks– freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. A third freshmen from Florida, Bradley Beal, was selected as the third overall pick.
In fact, if you look at the first 14 picks of yesterday’s draft, 11 were underclassmen and the other three were juniors. North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller was the first senior chosen with the 17th pick. Even though the NBA has prohibited high school players from entering the draft since 2007, the vast majority of college players selected since then have been underclassmen, with freshman going as the first overall pick in every year, except in 2009 when Oklahoma Sooners sophomore Blake Griffin was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers.
New York Times op-ed columnist Joe Nocera described this as “majoring in eligiblity” at an Aspen Ideas Festival session yesterday on college sports. He argued that what goes on in the big athletic programs only fosters cynicism among student athletes, many of whom are wholly unqualified for the rigors of academic work in the first place and are recruited to do only one thing: make money for a program.