What Zion’s Injury Means for College Basketball

Zion Williamson has been the talk of the college basketball world since he arrived on Duke’s campus in the fall of last year. The guy is the freakiest athlete I have ever seen on a basketball court. Some would say that is Lebron, but after 20+ games of playing for Duke I am convinced otherwise. He stands at 6’7 285 lbs. He can jump and move laterally as well as Lebron while moving people in the post like Charles Barkley. Don’t forget he’s an inch shorter yet 30 lbs. heavier than Lebron. Whoever said RJ Barrett was going to be drafted ahead of him must have been smoking some of that funky stuff from the west coast.

After Zion showed his potential through the first couple months of the season, analysts started questioning if he should sit out for the rest of the season to preserve himself as the first pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Despite the opinions from important figures in basketball, Zion continued to play until his injury that he suffered against the Tar Heels last week. That injury showed everyone why it is beneficial for players to sit out to preserve their draft stock.

But is that really what anyone wants besides Zion and his family? To have a player participate in enough college basketball games until his draft stock is at its peak then call it quits? That would cripple the college basketball scene. That’d be just like buying a girl a few drinks at the bar while she flirts with you only to go home at 2 am with no one else but Jill to get your rocks off. Not that I know anything about that… Anyway, college basketball only gets these NBA caliber players for one year, so you might as well play every game or play none at all. It only hurts college basketball to start out a season with commercials advertising these guys and attracting fans, only to have them play until they feel as if they are in good standing for the draft. It’ll hurt March Madness especially, the time when every American actually pays attention to college basketball.

Zion’s injury not only hurts Duke, but it is going to affect every high school and college basketball player who has a good chance at being drafted. Even in this day and age where five-star players have insurance on their bodies, it still will affect how they decide to go about their college basketball career.

My stance, as I mentioned before, is either play every game or don’t go to college at all. The NBA has proposed the idea of lowering the draft age to 18. That is great for the players, especially for the ones who know they will make it to the NBA when they are 19 anyway. But if the NBA Player’s Association doesn’t approve it, what is keeping these players from forgoing college and just training for the draft? With the exposure that the top high school players get nowadays, NBA scouts don’t need to see them in college. They have opportunities to see them play year round in the AAU circuit and during the season for their high school. Then for the year that would potentially be their freshman year of college, they just train and prepare their body for the NBA.

Darius Bazley signed with New Balance out of high school as an “intern” (lol) and has the potential to make $1 million from New Balance if he turns out to be the player they hope he will become. He has been training under New Balance since the fall semester. His internship is paid through incentives such as getting drafted, where he gets drafted, and so on. If the NBA doesn’t lower the draft age, I could see many top high school players going this route in the years to come. As a college basketball fan, I hate it, but if I was in a five-star’s shoes, I would probably take the “internship” and not risk a career altering injury.

I’m not even going to touch on the idea of paying college players because that is a whole other road that I don’t want to go down today. Zion’s injury shows us why it is beneficial for the player to sit out, but if you are a fan of college basketball you should not support it. College basketball would still be a great sport without five-stars. But if you have them in the game for even just a year, it still elevates the game. And you know that there will be a new crop of talent next year to fill in for the guys that left for the draft. Gronk, Jay-Z, and President Barry O are just a few of the many high profile people that have attended Duke games to see Zion this year. Big time players attract big time people. It also helps the universities financially that are hosting the games.

At the end of the day, I just want college basketball to stay the phenomenal game that it is. College sports are different in the fact that there is an entire institution behind a team, along with alumni. There is simply more emotion for a team that you have walked the same halls as, or just fell in love with a university and what it stands for. There is a reason that college football stadiums have a larger fan capacity than professional stadiums.

Taking the top crop of talent from these institutions is certainly going to hurt the game. Just look at college baseball. It has never grown or become relevant because the best players are drafted out of high school. If you do this to basketball or football, it will certainly hurt the status of the sport.

So before you root for the NBA or NFL to lower the draft age or encourage a player to sit out, just think about how that will affect college sports.

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