The ramifications of the one-and-done rule were never more prevalent than in early April, when the entire starting five (three freshmen and two sophomores) of the national champion Kentucky Wildcats decided to declare for the NBA draft. Usually when so many youngsters leave for the NBA, there are critics saying that they should have stayed in college, but you didn’t hear much of that about this crew.
That’s because this year’s Baby Wildcats systematically destroyed the competition en route to one of the most dominating NCAA tournament performances in recent memory. Nobody can blame them for leaving at the peak of their exposure, and at least three of them are projected to be top-10 picks (with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist possibly going #1 and #2, respectively).
This year’s Kentucky team was the first thing I thought of when SportSpin contributor J.D. Hollis forwarded me the story about 14-year-old Chris Lewis, who is in 8th grade, being offered two Division I basketball scholarships (from New Mexico and Memphis). The 6-7, 190 pound phenom is the son of former New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, so the scouts have good reason to believe that his lanky frame will fill out considerably as he matures.
With the pressure on college coaches to win immediately, it’s no surprise to me that they’re starting to recruit kids at increasingly earlier stages of their development. There’s no real commitment that can be given by either the player or the school until much later in high school, so until then the “offers” are just verbal commitments. If he turns out to be terrible, the schools can rescind their offers. If he ends up going to a more high profile school, hey, at least we tried.
It’s just a way to say to the kid, when he starts getting letters from everyone and their mama, “Hey, remember us? We were first!” It’s kind of like being the first judge to turn your chair around on The Voice.
So New Mexico and Memphis are hoping two things:
- That Chris Lewis continues to develop and turns into a monster on the court.
- That Chris Lewis will feel some sense of loyalty to the schools that saw his talent early and were willing to commit to him at such a young age.
In a college environment where the right freshman can transform an entire program, why not try to get the big fish as soon as possible? Until the NCAA comes up with some rules to protect 14-year-olds from the sharks, they’re going to continue to get bitten.