May 31, 2009

Roundtable: Will more players head to Europe?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

This week's question: In the past, underclassmen who declared for the NBA draft and weren't picked often had to "settle" for playing overseas. This year, former Florida guard Nick Calathes and former Clemson guard Terrence Oglesby aren't waiting to see when/if they get drafted; they already have announced they are heading to Europe. High school standout Jeremy Tyler is skipping his senior year of high school to play professionally overseas, and Brandon Jennings went to Italy instead of enrolling at Arizona. Are these fluke cases, or do you think it is a trend?

David Fox's answer: Playing overseas won't be much of a trend. Going to Europe wasn't the first choice for Calathes, Oglesby, Jennings or Tyler. It seems as if Calathes was going to go pro this year no matter what, whether it was the NBA or otherwise. Tyler's and Jennings' first choice would be to go directly to the NBA after high school, but that's not an option. The vast majority of basketball players will stay in high school, go to college for a few years, test the draft waters, then make a decision. There will be unique cases of players with money concerns or players who just don't like to go to class who will go overseas, but I find it hard to believe there will be a mass exodus of basketball players to Europe.

Mike Huguenin's answer: I think it will be a trend for certain high school players, especially if Brandon Jennings who went overseas instead of playing in college this past season goes in the top half of the first round. There are two advantages in going to Europe: a player gets paid and there is no time spent in a college classroom. Let's face it: Most high-level players are about the money, not an education. So, if they can get cash and miss class, they'll be all for it. I also think Calathes, Oglesby and Ole Miss' David Huertas (he's skipping his senior season to play in Puerto Rico) are carving a path that a few players will follow each season. Oglesby and Huertas weren't going to make it in the NBA anytime soon, so why not hone your game, make some money, then perhaps try the NBA later. Calathes' decision is a bit more surprising, since he had a real NBA opportunity. Still, I think you'll see a few sophomores and juniors each year decide they've had enough of college ball and go overseas to play pro ball.

Jason King's answer: Unfortunately, I think the situation could develop into more and more of a trend mainly because of the considerable amount of money that's available to these guys overseas. If a player isn't enjoying his college experience (i.e., Terrence Oglesby and Nick Calathes), then why wait an extra two years to start earning a paycheck when immediate riches are there for the taking? A guy such as Oglesby probably never would've played in the NBA, but if an overseas team is willing to give him a good contract, he might as well earn as much as he can while he's still in his prime. Players such as Jeremy Tyler and Brandon Jennings would've only been in college one year anyway, so they should hardly be criticized for wanting to bypass that season for a million-dollar deal overseas. One thing that could halt the trend would for players such as Oglesby and Calathes to report that they had bad experiences overseas and express regret for their decision to leave school early. Guess we'll have to check back with them in a year.

Steve Megargee's answer: This trend isn't restricted to the colleges. Keep in mind that Josh Childress left the Atlanta Hawks last summer to sign with a Greek professional team, Olympiacos Piraeus. And I expect we can see more of this in the near future, at least with certain players. Florida's Nick Calathes has dual Greek citizenship, which made it easier to understand why he'd be willing to sign with Panathinaikos and why that team would be willing to offer him such a lucrative deal. Clemson's Terrence Oglesby was born in Norway and has a father who played in Europe, which probably made him more open to the idea of going overseas. The big question is will we see more elite players making the move before they even begin their college careers. How many people will follow the path of Jeremy Tyler and Brandon Jennings? That's what makes the upcoming NBA draft so intriguing. Jennings didn't have a productive season with Lottomatica Roma. If Jennings becomes an NBA lottery pick even after a so-so season in Europe, five-star prospects with little interest in school might be tempted to bypass college altogether. If Jennings doesn't get taken until late in the first round, this trend could end almost as soon as it began.

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