Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Age limit's good for NBA, colleges

Less than a week ago, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski posed an interesting question. What if Greg Oden and Kevin Durant hadn't played one year of college basketball?

"I think it would hurt the NBA more than it would hurt college," Krzyzewski said.

No doubt college basketball is better off for having had Oden and Durant even if it was just for one season, thanks to an NBA age limit that prevented them from going to the NBA immediately after high school.

Oden was a first-team All-American and led Ohio State to the NCAA title game. Durant was the consensus national player of the year for Texas.
But Krzyzewski's point is that one year in college dramatically increased the NBA marketability of Oden and Durant as Thursday's draft approaches.

If Oden had played against pros last season with his surgically repaired wrist, he might have faded into obscurity by midseason. Instead, he has signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike and Topps.

Durant wouldn't have scored nearly as easily against Kevin Garnett as he did against Big 12 defenders last season, and now also is expected to cash in with big endorsement contracts.

In Portland and Seattle, which have the draft's first two picks, respectively, the arrivals of Oden and Durant are expected to generate huge interest in the NBA franchises.

Krzyzewski's concern with the NBA age limit in place is that colleges stay true to their mission and don't become merely a component of the pro basketball public relations machine.

"We've got to be careful about college, that it doesn't become Oden against Durant," Krzyzewski said. "It's Ohio State against Texas. If we lose that, then we lose our share of how you look at basketball. That's the thing that makes college basketball.

"It will never be a coach or a player. It will be Duke against North Carolina, UCLA against Southern Cal. And that's one of the things we have to protect. And when we protect that, we protect the inherent mission of the school, which is to educate." - Ken Tysiac