It’s time to put to rest all the arguments and snide remarks regarding the so-called “One and Done” rule. For those that still don’t understand, the “One and Done” rule in college basketball is not the brainchild of John Calipari. The athletic department leadership at the University of Kentucky did not, in any way, influence the creation of the National Basketball Association’s policy which stated that, in order to be drafted, a player must be a year removed from high school. The NBA and its player’s association collectively bargained the rule into existence. Whether or not you agree with it, the rule is the law of the land and has shaped the current climate of college basketball, for better or for worse.
The notion that somehow the “One and Done” rule has put the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team on the map is comical at best and disingenuous at worst. To recap, Kentucky has won championships and been successful when the NCAA was lilly white in the 1940s and 50s and when it was integrated in the 60s and 70s. The Wildcats have enjoyed success before the three-point shot and after. The Cats have won with veteran heavy teams and, yes, the Cats have won with players that have only been on campus for a year or two. Literally, you cannot look at the NCAA record book and not see Kentucky leading or near the top in any team wins category or, at least contending for a title (when the longest Final Four drought is 14 years, that’s pretty consistent). To hear rival fans and some in the national media crow, however, it all comes back to the one and dones.
In my mind, this says more about the people saying these crazy things than it does about the players that are only on campus for a year. If you allow that college is to help young people grow and to learn and to find gainful employment, why is it only some of the students that are allowed to pursue their dreams? In various fields of study, students leave early and chase their hearts desire and aren’t demonized, yet basketball players are? Because they don’t “take academics seriously” or “make a mockery out of higher education?” I’ve been on a college campus before and, trust me, there are way more kids on all sorts of scholarship that do more damage to the academic integrity of a school than someone leaving early to make a few million dollars playing a game.
Once again, Head Coach John Calipari and the University of Kentucky did not invent the “One and Done” rule. It just so happens that Coach Cal can recruit the best talent and the most talented college basketball players have the opportunity to play professional basketball after a year or two of college. That’s just the way the world works. But more than just recruiting talented kids, Calipari recruits good character kids. And while DeMarcus Cousins can be a knucklehead at times, neither he nor any of Calipari’s other recruits/players have done anything to in any way besmirch the great name of the University of Kentucky. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
As Calipari reminded the crowd at Big Blue Madness, Cousins and former Wildcat John Wall just signed huge contract extensions with their NBA teams and their first order of business was to give $1 million each to charity. Calipari has spearheaded fundraisers at Kentucky for the Haiti earthquake victims, for the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, for the tornadoes that ripped through Eastern Kentucky, just to name a few. And while detractors are always looking for Cal’s sinister angle, it’s easy just to see these activities for what they are: they benefit people in their time of need and it instills to those one and dones that it always pays to give back to your community.
The kids that have passed through the Kentucky Men’s Basketball program under John Calipari’s watch are good kids. They’re hard workers and have done nothing to be ashamed of. Guys are graduating or leaving early to earn millions of dollars in the NBA (and are continuing their educations). It’s a very good track record and one that shouldn’t be so easily dismissed as “just a bunch of one and done players.” As Coach Cal himself says, “Success at Kentucky isn’t a choice. It’s a requirement.” And success has many different forms, even if only takes one year to find it.