Monday, March 24, 2014

The Case for Mr. Turner

If you've watched any college basketball lately, you would have heard of the outcry  against one-and-done collegiate athletes by now. Now that the madness that is the first week of the NCAA Basketball Tournament has passed, a number of traditional powerhouses have experienced an early exit from the dance. With blue-blooded programs such as the Kansas Jayhawks and the Duke Blue Devils watching from home, one can't help but wonder about the effect of underclassmen declaring to play professionally. And I'm not talking about Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. I'm talking about elite collegiate players who are currently underperforming in the NBA such as Ben McLemore and Thomas Robinson, former Jayhawks All-Americans, and Austin Rivers, a former stand-out Duke guard. What if Kansas and Duke had those players still on their rosters? Kansas would be packing their bags to head out to Memphis for the Sweet Sixteen and America wouldn't know where Mercer was on the map because Duke steamrolled them. However, history writes with a different quill and we are forced to write off our brackets with red ink.

So, what does the parity of the NCAA Tournament have to do with the smiling gentleman at the top of this article? Well, first off, let me introduce him. His name is Josiah Turner, a former five star and No. 11 high school prospect ranked by Rivals on Yahoo!

The Sacramento native committed to the University of Arizona to play basketball for the Wildcats under Sean Miller. Unfortunately for both parties, Mr. Turner had troubles with drugs and alcohol. He underperformed during his freshman season at Arizona and was dismissed from the team shortly after the Wildcats were ousted by Bucknell in the first round of the NIT. All was not lost for Turner as he could still be drafted due to his tremendous upside and potential. However, the NBA did not accept Turner initially, leading him overseas to play for a professional Hungarian team. Due to bedbugs and other poor conditions in Hungary, Turner left for Canada to play professionally. With his attitude out of check, he was shown the door after a number of confrontations with his head coach. Now, Josiah Turner is playing in the NBA's Developmental League for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. With a spot on an NBA roster within reach, Turner's attitude has improved and so has his skillset. Just as he displayed his tremendous ball-handling skills in high school, Turner is now impressing at this level with much better decision making than he previously demonstrated in college. Turner would have been a junior if he had stayed at Arizona, but like his fellow recruit and former teammate Nick Johnson, both are on their way to an NBA roster.

So what's the point of talking about Mr. Turner? Am I upset that he didn't stay at Arizona for a few more years? No. If Josiah had a better attitude and stayed away from drugs during his freshman year, he would've been drafted in a heart beat. He was and is that good. However, Turner wouldn't have been good enough to develop into a good NBA player if he jumped straight from freshman year to professional life. That's no knock on his ability as more and more one-and-done players leaving college basketball for the NBA are underperforming. I think it would be better suited for these players who intend on spending one year at college to instead spend that year in the developmental league. Skip college altogether because these young men don't have much interest in earning a degree when they have dunk competitions in their futures. College life also holds too much temptation for some of these young men as they are lured by college girls, parties, and boosters.

It's time for college basketball and collegiate athletics to separate collegiate sports from professional sports. The NCAA champions education and athletics, not athletics over education. By becoming a student athlete, a student would play collegiate sports while being offered a scholarship in return, a win-win situation. If the athlete is so hell-bent on making money as soon as possible, let them be, but send them to developmental leagues that are more professionally oriented than collegiate athletics are. That's the case for Mr. Turner.