In 1996, Lower Merion High School senior Kobe Bryant announced he would forgo his college years and head straight to the pros. becoming the first guard to ever be taken out of high school. He went on to be 5 time NBA champion, Two time NBA finals MVP, 18 time NBA All-star, and one of the greatest NBA players of all time.
Twenty years later, 19 year old Sudanese power forward Thon Maker announced he would go to the league instead of college. He was the 10th overall pick in the NBA Draft to the Milwaukee Bucks. He is a rare one, as you can see down in the clip below. What does he have in store? It remains to be seen, but Maker could set the blueprint for up and coming high school athletes in the future. The question is will it work?
Recently, Florida State freshman and potential lottery pick Jonathan Isaac flirted with the idea of going pro, but elected to attend college. Even more recently, five-star guard Hamidou Diallo said he was eligible for the 2017 season, but is likely going to attend college.
Thon Maker is one of the few players to go to the pros because of the NBA rule as you can see below. Everyone cannot just enter the draft if they please, as they have to at least be one year removed from high school and/or turn 19 in the calendar of that year’s NBA Draft.
In a poll done on my twitter, I polled the following question on if kids who exude excellent talent should be able to go to the pros. The final results showed the following:
One reason high school athletes shouldn’t make the leap and go to the NBA immediately despite of skill is the maturity. Most players at this age often lack the physical and mental maturity that they can develop in college. Now sure, that same principle can still be applied for a player who goes to the league after one year of college, but the difference is they had at least one year to adjust before going pro.
For all the marbles, it is best that every player experience at least one year of college before becoming eligible for the draft. The great thing about college is the implementation of trying out in the draft combine so players can see if they are indeed actually NBA ready.
However, this concept would be a great time to introduce the the D-League, as their entrance age is 18. If kids don’t want to go to college, but want to make money, the D-League would be the best route. Sure, going overseas and making $300,000 like Brandon Jennings did seem ideal, but starting out in the D-League would be the best option possible. Players would get to play under NBA rules while receiving coaching advice from some of the smartest basketball minds in the world. So if players do not possess the mental and physical maturity, the D-League will be the best way to help shape them for the pros.
At this point, it’s definitely way too early for Thon Maker to prove if his decision was right. However, if it is, it would definitely serve an interesting parallel on the anniversary of Kobe Bryant doing the same exact thing exactly 20 years ago. More kids shouldn’t jump from high school to the NBA, but if a diamond emerges once in a while, then it is no big deal at all in the future.