For Franklin, NBA draft is smart move

by Kenneth Leonard

An idealist may say education is, in and of itself, a gift that keeps on giving. There’s no way to overemphasize the importance of education, and here at San Diego State, many of us feel very strongly about the inherent value of the educational process. For several students, it’s not the destination, but the journey that defines collegiate success or failure.

For more pragmatic students, time spent at SDSU is a means to an end. The reason they are here is to prepare for their future careers, gaining skills and experience required by employers. For these students, it’s all about the diploma.

Neither approach to school is any better than the other. When our fellow Aztecs make major life decisions it’s important to be aware of the various reasons why we are all here.

With this in mind, let us consider the implications of SDSU men’s basketball standout Jamaal Franklin’s decision to forego his senior year of college in favor of entering the NBA draft. Whenever a talented athlete chooses to leave school for a shot at a career in professional sports, talking heads pop up out of nowhere, ready to criticize his or her decision. It’s really annoying and they usually have nothing original to say.

The question of whether or not athletes should finish college before turning pro has been controversial for decades. For basketball players specifically, this question has even been debated in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled against the NBA’s requirement for athletes to wait out their four years of collegiate eligibility before turning pro, thus opening the door for opportunistic athletes such as Franklin.

Several athletes, from Moses Malone to Lebron James, have transitioned successfully from high school directly into the NBA, bypassing college altogether. For some people, such as James, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett, going straight into the NBA was a great decision. For others, such as Sebastian Telfair and Eddy Curry, the choice may not have been so smart. The point is, it’s not possible to predict how well an NBA career is going to play out. Nobody knows what will happen once a player enters the NBA, so it’s a smart move to enter the draft while at the top of one’s game, which Franklin was last season.

Consider the following: Last year, Franklin was the only player in the U.S. to lead his team in four statistical categories, averaging 17 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game, and he did all this while leading the team to an NCAA tournament berth for the third consecutive year. He’s been Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and a two-time all-MW first-teamer and Associated Press All-American. He’s got nothing left to prove here at Montezuma Mesa.

If we approach college as a proving ground where young people learn skills to prepare for a career, Franklin has done that in stunning fashion. He’s been our on-court valedictorian, and the skills he’s honed here at SDSU will enable his success in the NBA.

For those who look at SDSU as a place where memories are made and the collection of memorable experiences is more important than the accumulation of job skills, let me ask you one question. How great does it feel to play in the NCAA tournament? Oh, wait. You have no idea, do you. Me neither. Maybe Franklin’s collegiate experiences are something we’re not necessarily qualified to comment on.

At the end of the day, Franklin made the best decision for his future, and I commend his commitment to excellence on the court. It’s good to see another Aztec make it to the pros, and we should all be proud of our student-athletes’ accomplishments. All the haters out there need to figure out their own futures instead of worrying about Franklin’s, anyway.