Greg Oden, Buckeyes and Basketball

Posted Apr 16, 2007
Last Updated Nov 11, 2011

As a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes I was disappointed to see my hometown team lose this year’s NCAA men’s basketball championship. It wasn’t since Mike Redd was here that I had felt excited about the Buckeyes’ prospects. Nail-biting comeback after nail-biting comeback made this season and NCAA tournament extra special. But now the season is done and Central Ohio basketball fans are in a nervous daze as they await OSU center Greg Oden’s decision about entering the NBA draft. Alongside Oden is his longtime teammate Mike Connelly, who (at the moment this was written) is still uncertain about coming back to the Buckeyes or going pro. Both Oden and Connelly are currently freshmen.

What is amazing about the public debate over this issue is the narrow-minded attachment to the politically correct stance. Of course most educated Americans promote higher education—but some people are more educated about platitudes than logic and common sense.

During the NCAA playoffs I heard one TV announcer give one of the most ridiculous comments I have ever heard. But, because of America’s blindness to the status quo, I doubt it got many people calling foul. The announcer was congratulating Florida Gators player Joakim Noah for holding out for his fourth year of college instead of going pro last year. The announcer then said that it was the best decision, since the only place you can learn basketball is in the college arena. That’s the biggest bunch of double-dribbling flop I have ever heard.

Yeah, I am sure that Noah learned plenty over his time playing Florida basketball. I am sure he is now happy about the decision since it helped him secure a significant position in collegiate basketball history. And it may well have been the best decision for Noah. But anyone who thinks that the college arena is the only place to learn ball is stepping out of bounds on reality.

Kobi Bryant. Kevin Garnett. Lebron James… need I go on?

The players listed above didn’t play any college basketball and are superstar players. So this list is an extreme. I don’t think that a college environment can teach you anything about basketball that you can’t learn a lot quicker in the NBA. In fact, playing in the NBA would be the ultimate school of the game.

There are many benefits of colleges. But America needs to snap out of its twisted perspective on colleges. The whole point that anyone plays ball in college probably boils down to two things: 1) a hope and desire to make it to the NBA and/or 2) to use athletic ability pay for scholarships as student athletes pursue other goals. If your talent and ambition is leading you to the NBA… there is no really outstanding reason to turn it down the moment an opportunity to go pro is presented.

You can always go back to school and get a diploma. You can always afford school if you make it to the NBA. But the reverse is not going to be guaranteed. You cannot guarantee that you will be capable to join the NBA later (what if you get injured?).

The fact is this. If you make it to the NBA, you are surrounding yourself with the highest caliber basketball players in the world—you are putting yourself in the most educational environment you possibly can (when it comes to basketball).

Earlier I said there is no outstanding reason to withhold going pro (when an opportunity is presented). That doesn’t mean that there are no legitimate reasons to stay in college rather than pursue your career. You may not feel you are ready or you are simply uncertain. Maybe you just feel that it is the best thing to do (maybe the schooling is really so important to you that you would rather stick it out).

My main point here is to say that not everyone will think you are crazy if you decide to go pro. When it comes to the talent of Oden and Connelly, I would be happy to see them stay at OSU and take the Buckeyes to the championship again next year. But that is my personal perspective as a fan—my emotional side. My logical side says something altogether different—you are crazy if you don’t take the opportunity to go pro.

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