A lot of noise today about Duke University freshman basketball star Zion Williamson and his injury last night in the game against North Carolina. Too much of it revolves around his pro prospects being put in jeopardy by an injury in college play, simply because the NBA forbids the drafting of players under age 19, etc.
That is an issue the NBA does not even need to deal with now, considering its G-League development option. Furthermore, no one made Williamson go to college, either. He could have played in Europe for a year or just stayed at home and worked out on his own with a professional basketball trainer (like a retired player who might offer such services?).
Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have tiers and tiers of developmental leagues for high-school players who do not want to go to college and instead want to go professional right away. The National Basketball Association now has something to deal with the same kinds of high-school players in its own sport.
Consider the case of Bol Bol, as well, the Oregon Ducks player who played just nine games in his freshman year of college ball this season before injuring his foot and basically shelving himself until the NBA Draft. When millions are at stake, these players should not choose a single season of college—where they are basically stealing taxpayer money from public universities, in the case of Bol, on “scholarship” when they have intention of graduating.
No one forces them to go to school, even with the NBA’s silly draft-age rules. There are other options for them, and more elite high-school players need to consider them when it comes to professional basketball options as the NBA continues to develop a deeper program for developing young players, more in line with MLB and NHL practices.
Thus, Duke is not exploiting Williamson for profit any more than Williamson is exploiting Duke to increase his future profit potential. It’s a two-way street.
So let’s not hear any more criticism of the system in place, because Williamson chose his pathway. He was not forced into it by the NBA. His ego made him go to college as a faux student, when he could have gone professional already, in reality. The NBA and its future players just need to do a better job of managing their choices to avoid this kind of noise.