I was fortunate enough to be able to ask the first question at a press conference this week for High School basketball standout and Arizona commit Rondae Hollis Jefferson. The West Chester Pennsylvania product had recently been the final player cut from the U-19 national team, which happened to be the topic of my question. And I felt bad as Jefferson appeared to be in a fantastic mood which I hoped not to hinder, yet I proceeded to ask "You were cut from the national team very recently, what was that like and what can you take from that moving forward?" This was the first of many difficult questions the 6'7 215 lb forward was asked, and like he did to every question answered it with open honesty. Jefferson said "I just went out there and gave it my all, life does things to you sometimes, and it's all part of a process and a plan, things have a way of working themselves out and this was a learning experience I knew I'd grow from."
Most guys who are top basketball recruits ( 5th for his position in the country) usually plan to spend only a year in college and proceed to enter the NBA Draft and Hollis-Jefferson is no exception, when asked "what is more important a national title or improving your draft stock?" The response he gave is the thought process of all high recruits, yet very few would have the stones to admit, "I'm not gonna sit up here and tell you guys a lie, getting drafted is my top priority, of course I want to win games, but in the end of the day the NBA is the ultimate goal, and that's not just for me that's every guy." Rondae is the classic example of everything wrong with college sports, yet he is partaking in a system a group of student athletes and coaches manipulate every year. Again his honesty was displayed when asked by a colleague of mine "what will you be majoring in?" he plainly said "whatever makes my college time go the smoothest" thank you Rondae for being honest, but once again another issue with the one and done rule. I think Rondae is the next Paul George, phenomenal defense, great handle, great passer and his jump shot is what needs work, bottom line, I think he's going to be fantastic(my theory is a great defensive player is bust proof). But let's play hypothetical and say Rondae didn't pan out or suffered a serious injury, without a degree in his easy major... what will he do?? Rondae Hollis Jefferson is the name I am using in the article, but there are terrific talents like him that could catch an unfortunate break causing them financial instability later on in life.
Here is a thought, Nerlens Noel, who spent a single year at Kentucky, battles knee injuries his entire career and ends up having a sub par NBA career and makes okay money, Mason Plumlee(drafted 12th) spent 4 years at the prestigious Duke University and also has a below average career... In terms of financial security, I think the guy who spent four years at an institution "Ivy league the south" producing products such as Shane Battier and Grant Hill, or the school known as the "NBA's halfway house" which has had academic geniuses such as John Wall and Demarcus Cousins who supposedly only spent one semester taking classes...... And honestly these guys are rushed through one year of college with the emphasis on basketball, the education is getting lost. So who do you think would have a brighter long term financial situation?
The NCAA talks about student athletes, but where is the emphasis on academics? Are we providing a possible plan B for athletes whose careers do not pan out? No we are not, yet I see the counter the argument that the NCAA has no right to impede a college athlete from making a living so I have a a solution which presents two options. If a high school student wishes to attend college, and sign a college letter, they must remain at the University for 2 years. If an athlete wishes to pursue the European option, they must stay for two years as well. This presents an opportunity to mature and basically ensures that athletes are twenty before they enter the National Basketball Association.
As for Rondae, I am not concerned. I spoke to him briefly after and his motivation and determination are un-matched. With a fantastic base to work off of and the instruction he will receive from coach Sean Miller I am positive Rondae will have success in his college and high school career. I love this kid's swagger and his game and I want to make clear there is nothing personally wrong with him, yet the flawed system needs to be reworked. The NBA and NCAA need to converse, find a system which provides mature and educated participants NBA-Josh Neighbors