Nation's #1 draft prospect could be skipping college

17 year old Emoni Bates has decommitted from Michigan State. There was no reason given why, but the prep star said he'd like to keep his option open. He could commit to another college or he could go the G-League route. I haven't heard of any talk of Bates playing a year overseas, but I assume that would be an option as well. Bates is only a Junior, but is considered by many to be the best player in high school basketball right now. As of now he's the projected #1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft. And yes I'm aware that's two years away.

NCAA Basketball is going through a rough stretch right now with the floodgates open on transfers via their "transfer portal." It has become rather common for top prep players to transfer high schools, but up until recently the top college players typically stayed at their university or left early for the pros. When you saw a highly touted college player transfer it was typically due to some more extreme circumstances.

Back in the KG, T-Mac, Kobe, LeBron days a player of Bates stature not playing college basketball wasn't that big of a shocker. You could go straight from the preps to the pros. But since they changed the eligibility rules, almost all of the top players did the one year of college thing and then bounced. Every once in a while you'd see a Brandon Jennings play professionally overseas, but in recent years, you're seeing more kids choosing the professional route. But Emoni Bates would be the first super hyped #1 overall prospect to go skip college post the eligibility rule change.

And college coaches now not only have to worry about their own players being poached by another school, but your top prep commitments changing their minds. Maybe this is part of the reason Brad Stevens turned down that $70 million. It's more or less like having a roster of players on expiring contracts. Maybe Bates picks another college. And maybe not much else changes. Future top recruits will keep their initial commitments and Bates will be an exception. But if he goes pro, don't be surprised to see other top players in that 2022 prep class go the same route. And then maybe more the next year.

I'm not familiar with how college commits have always worked in years past. I would assume at a certain point you wouldn't be able to change your mind (and let's also point out here that Bates under the rules in place totally has the right to change his mind). Otherwise why wouldn't we have seen considerable more change of hearts from when these teenagers choose a school and when they graduate? Regardless whether there was a change in the rules for prep players as well or not, the NCAA has some rocky waters ahead.

Now I know people will say "just pay the players." Well first of all that would mean that every men's and women's college basketball player would need to get paid. The same for the 15th man and 15th woman as the Zion's of the world. That probably means less scholarships. Also since Men's basketball and football are the two programs that bring in by far the most revenue while most of the other programs are in the red, that would mean these other programs would get hit extremely hard. If a university is using the money they make from their men's basketball team and football team to support tennis, track, baseball, softball, volleyball, crew, swimming, etc, then someone suffer if there is less money to support those programs.

The compromise seems to be to allow college athletes to make money off the court, field, etc. But anyway that's what this is all coming down to right now. Talk to NBA players from the past and the vast majority LOVED their college years. You got treated like kings on campus and could enjoy being an 18 or 19 year old. Then you'd get drafted and make millions. Something shifted in recent years where that no longer became the opinion of the majority. It was more like "Why are these schools making all this money off of me?" and high draft pick projected players have been encouraged to shut down their Freshman signs at the first sign of some injury.

As with most things there is often no going back. There are some who want the NBA to have a more true minor leagues like in baseball. I believe NBA owners, GM's, and coaches prefer if the college game continued to be their de facto minor leagues. And probably many professional players as well. Since every raw, but talented 18 year old kid would be taking a job away from a veteran baller. I know the reason they changed contracts to rookie deals for draftees is because that meant more money for the vets. And they were the ones voting on the CBA. Not the future draftees.

Ideally at least in my opinion, they can figure out an arrangement where college athletes can make money off the court/field, and then top prep stars decide that enjoying their final two teenage years at a university isn't that bad of an idea. Regarding the "transfer portal," players should be able to transfer without having to sit if their coach that they committed to leaves for sure. But I do think there is something to be said for a school committing to give a kid a free four year education and the kid committing to that school. Just because you don't get the playing time you think you deserve as a Freshman shouldn't mean you can just start the next season somewhere else.

The NCAA of course has been a PR disaster that has never done itself any favors. Because when the transfer rules were stricter previously, the NCAA always would piss everyone off by declining the player's elegibility waiver even though everyone with a brain or heart knew this case deserved an exception. That happened time and time again. I'm sure whoever is in charge now wishes he could go back in time and allow the kid who wanted to transfer back closer to home, since a relative was sick to do just that. Now it's the wild west.