Cheryl Hughes: Farm Team
Disclaimer: The following column is about college sports, written by a person who knows very little about college sports, but who, nonetheless, has strong opinions about the attitudes of the players and
the NBA draft.
When I lived in Texas, for the brief two years that I did, there was one thing I could be certain of when I introduced myself as a native of Kentucky. The person I was meeting would always, and without fail,
express admiration for our horses or our basketball teams, and most of the time, both. I would grin from ear to ear because I am proud of both. I’m old people, and I was raised to be proud of my family,
my state and my country.
I don’t fit the mold of the superfan. I don’t watch every game, and although it is blasphemous to Cardinals and Wildcats fans alike, I cheer for every Kentucky team playing in any and all basketball games, although I am probably a bit partial to WKU, because I graduated from there.
I am always proud of any Kentucky team who wins the NCAA championship. The University of Louisville has won two championships—a potential third in 2013 is still in the appeals process—and the
University of Kentucky has eight NCAA titles.
Much to the chagrin of Cardinals fans, the University of Kentucky is considered our state’s flagship university, for the name alone, if not for the multiple basketball championships. It is a state- funded institution, and as such, feels like the home team.
Do you remember the 2012 NCAA win, when they drove the team bus right through the doors and onto the floor of Rupp Arena? People from all over the state lined the streets of Lexington. The celebration was broadcast on live TV. It was an incredible event. We haven’t had one since.
I know it’s unrealistic to expect a championship win by a Kentucky team in every tournament, or even a Final Four appearance, for that matter (2015 was the last Final Four showing). It does bother me,
however, that many of the players recruited by UK have one goal in mind, and that is to play for th NBA. The phrase “one and done,” referring to a college player’s eligibility for the NBA draft, has become
the go-to explanation for the team’s inability to bring home a championship title. The Universitye of Kentucky basketball program has, in part, become a farm team for the NBA.
On that 2012 championship team, Terrence Jones, entered the NBA draft after his sophomore year, Marquis Teague after his freshman year, Doron Lamb after his sophomore year, and Nerlens Noel
after his freshman year. There was actually a senior on that team, Darius Miller, who played from 2008 to 2012 before entering the draft (en.m.wikipedia.org). That senior speaks volumes about that win.
Enter 2013, teammates, Archie Goodwin and Julius Randle, decide they are one and done. 2014, James Young and Karl-Anthony Towns one and done. 2015, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Jamal
Murray all three, one and done. 2016, both Labissiere and Fox, one and done. 2017, Monk, Adebayo, Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander, one and done (en.m.wikipedia.org). And on and on it goes. The 2020/2021 season was the worst for UK since the 1988/1999 season. On the up-side, there probably won’t be many “one and done” UK players in this year’s draft.
I understand there are other states with universities that deal with the same thing, but I don’t live in those states, and those states aren’t known for their basketball, or horses for that matter. I know,
I am taking this way too personally, especially for someone who is not a superfan, but our state needs a winning basketball team once again. Remember that 2012 team? There were two sophomores on that
team. In my opinion, all college players should be encouraged to wait until after their sophomore years to enter the draft. The NBA should be encouraged to wait on the players. It’s not like they have a
shortage of outstanding stars.
I will stop short of saying, “There should be a law!” Even, I’m not that radical. There does, however, need to be a policy change on both the college and professional levels. (This is probably the first and last column I will ever write on college sports. I just wanted to let you know, it will be safe to read my columns once again, starting next week.)