Durant would be wise to stay another year

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March 27, 2007

2:40 PM

Forget all the gripes about the lack of upsets in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament; the most frustrating point in this year’s tourney was the University of Texas’ second round loss to the University of Southern California. It’s not that I bleed Texas burnt orange. I don’t even profess the slightest trace of fandom. What made this loss so frustrating is that it was most likely the last time we will ever see Longhorn freshman and national player of the year Kevin Durant in a college uniform.

p. To update anyone living under a rock for the last several months, Durant pretty much owned his opponents in the Big 12 Conference and across the country. While at times Durant showed his youth in several of Texas’ close losses, he managed to average an impressive 25 points and 11 rebounds per game. But enough of the hype. I’ll leave that for Dick Vitale and company.

p. It’s almost certain that Durant, one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball this year, will be drafted number one or two in this summer’s NBA draft, forfeiting his remaining three years of college eligibility. Given a big time contract and a sweet shoe endorsement, who could say no to the NBA? History says both Durant and Ohio State University freshman phenom Greg Oden, who is also predicted to be drafted in the top two, will take the money and run.

p. Durant and Oden are part of the first class to be affected by the NBA’s rule increasing its minimum age of entry to 19 or a year removed from high school. For fans of college basketball this rule is bittersweet, but for the NBA it is very logical.

p. Billed as the second coming of Tracy McGrady, Durant’s draft status can only go down if he remains in college. It would seem stupid not to declare for this summer’s draft. But surprisingly, Durant says he’s still unsure. He likes college, and not only does he enjoy going to class, he maintains over a 3.0 GPA. He’s also known to have a penchant for munching on gummy worms at team study halls and playing video games. The next Tracy McGrady? Really?

p. The one-and-done policy has angered some, most notably Texas Tech University head coach Bob Knight, who said the rule is the worst thing to happen to college basketball since he started coaching. Players have no incentive to go to class or do well in school with big bucks waiting. Why even give a scholarship to a kid who may only stay one year?

p. Knight can cry all he wants, but this rule makes sense. Fans benefit. Who wouldn’t salivate at the thought of the future LeBron James’ of the world playing college basketball? Even if it was only for a year, it still helps increase the popularity of the under-appreciated college game. Players benefit both physically and mentally from the experience. Durant’s raw athleticism and his freak-of-nature 7-foot-5 inch wingspan made him a sure-fire prospect out of high school, but he needed this year to gain enough body strength for the rough NBA. And for Durant, who is by all means still a kid, this rule makes sense from a maturity standpoint. The NBA is sick of providing babysitting services to players who come straight out of high school.

p. It will be interesting to see what Durant, Oden and other college freshman decide to do after this year. History says they bolt for the NBA, but they may set a precedent by staying in college for more than one year. I hope so.

p. __Carl Siegmund is an associate news editor for The Flat Hat.__

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