Since the 2005 NBA season, a new rule was put in place to force high school basketball players to play somewhere else, whether it is college or in Europe or Asia, before they could declare for the NBA draft. Overall this has drastically improved the NBA and the quality of the players entering the league. There are so many examples of guys coming out of high school who were supposed to be superstars and ended up being absolute busts. Not only did this hurt the NBA, but it was even more detrimental to the kids who did not pan out for the NBA. Without a college degree or any experience of basketball outside of high school, many players struggled after their short NBA careers. However, this rule change not only affected the NBA, but more so the way in which college teams recruited players who were “5-Star” recruits that were coming to college for one year and then leaving for the NBA.
The best example of teams who use the “one and done” system is John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Since he left Memphis for the job at Kentucky, he has had one of the best, if not the best recruiting classes every single year. The problem with this is that it does not necessarily mean they will win a National Championship. It has become more and more apparent that the key to winning in college basketball is the perfect combination of experienced players along side one or two 5-star recruits. The two best examples of this are Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and Bill Self of Kansas. Duke has been one of the best college programs in the nation since Krzyzewski became in head coach in 1980. He has always been able to figure out how to get players who are committed to playing for four years, as well as the guys who are coming to college for one year and then leaving for the NBA. On their current team, he has four juniors in the starting lineup with the number one recruit in last years class, Austin Rivers. Having older, more experienced players really helps guys like Rivers out, showing him the ropes and keeping his ego in check. As far as Kansas, while they are having a down year, Bill Self has led the Jayhawks to the best record and most wins of any college team since he joined the team in 2004. Recruiting was always one of Self’s strengths and he has done a fantastic job so far at Kansas.
While there’s no doubt he had a stellar class of recruits in Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, the key was that he was able to keep all of those guys at KU for at least three years. That year they won the National Championship and right after Kansas had, what was supposed to be a mediocre recruiting class. It turned out that Marcus and Markieef Morris, who were ranked above 80 in the Rivals top 150 players, ended up being superstar college basketball players and mid-first round picks in this year’s NBA draft.
It looks like there should, and will be a shift in the focus of many of the college basketball power houses, in the type of players that they will heavily recruit. While it’s great to have the best recruits who are going to stay for a year, the best way to achieve sustained success is by building recruiting classes with the “second-tier” players and developing them into superstars.