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Free John Wall

John Wall, a 6'4" point guard from Raleigh, North Carolina, is probably the best high school basketball player in America. A few years ago, he would have followed in the footsteps of other great high school basketball players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James and gone straight from high school to the NBA, but since the league instituted a rule a few years ago stipulating that an athlete must be at least 19 years old and one year out of high school to be eligible for the league's draft, Wall is now in the process of figuring out which college he'll "attend" next year before going pro.

There is one wrinkle, though. Wall repeated a grade in high school--meaning that he'll be 19 years old when the next NBA season starts and he could plausibly argue that, although he's now in the midst of finishing his senior year at a North Carolina school called Word of God, he is already technically a year out of high school. Gary Parrish makes a convincing case that Wall should in fact try to enter the NBA draft now:

[T]he people advising Wall (like Brian Clifton, the former agent turned AAU coach) are foolish to not advise Wall to at least try to enter the draft. That, or they have ulterior motives and need him to go to college -- perhaps even a specific college -- for a year for some reason that is unclear (but feel free to speculate as you wish). There is no in-between. Clifton and the people of influence are either foolish or they have some vested interest in Wall enrolling in college. Nobody will convince me otherwise, and forgive me for rolling my eyes at the official rationale coming from Wall's camp, that the North Carolina native wants to go to college because he promised his late father he would.

It's a sweet story, sure.

But Wall's father died when Wall was less than 10 years old, and, needless to say, things have changed since then. The options at that point were the same options most kids have -- to go to college or not go to college. Given those choices, every father would want his son to go to college, might even make his son promise to do so. But when presented with the option of enrolling in college or taking millions of guaranteed dollars to play professional basketball (or write books or work on computers or whatever), I suspect most fathers would choose the latter. Either way, nobody is pretending Wall will spend more than a year in college, so is that really the promise Wall is trying to make good on, that he'll pass 24 credit hours before moving on with his life sans a degree?

I think Parrish makes the crucial point here. Wall stands to gain nothing from his one year in college--or, in reality, one semester, since he'll have no incentive to set foot in a classroom during his second semester, since any bad grades he gets that semester wouldn't imperil his eligibility until the first semester of his sophomore year, at which point he'll be playing in the NBA. But there are others--namely those people "advising" Wall and the college coach who has him on his team next year--who do stand to benefit from the NBA's "And One" rule. Which only goes to show how stupid and unfair that rule really is. It allows--and even encourages--the exploitation of the athlete it's supposedly designed to help.

--Jason Zengerle