What If?: Kansas Jayhawk Edition

Joel Embiid grabs the rebound and tosses the outlet pass to a running Ben McLemore. Dribbling past the half court line, McLemore runs the fast break with Frank Mason III and Andrew Wiggins trailing closely behind him. He feeds the ball to Mason who lobs it up to a streaking Wiggins. The Canadian leaps high and finishes with a thunderous dunk that brings all of Allen Fieldhouse to its feet.

What if during the 2011 NBA lockout, David Stern successfully raised the minimum age for draft eligibility to 20 years old? Consider a starting five of Frank Mason III, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis, and Joel Embiid. One word that comes to mind: Lethal. Although some of those players are over 20 years old, for the sake of the argument we will assume that they decide to stay in college for all four years. A Kansas Jayhawk team this much talent would undoubtedly be at the top of every college ranking. With the type of sanctions NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, is trying to put in place, college basketball fans may see more lineups as stacked (repeated this word) as these in the near future.

Most highly ranked prospects enter college with the intent to declare for the draft after their freshman year. In the past, it was an anomaly for freshman to get a lot of touches in college. It was not until the University of Michigan’s Fab Five recruiting class in 1991 did freshman really start getting more playing time. After that, the concept of “one-and-done” came into fruition and as a result, many of the players entering the NBA have come with a lot of raw talent, but have not spent enough time practicing to polish their skills. In an interview with GQ last year, Adam Silver said that if he could immediately change one thing in the NBA, “It would benefit the league to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20”. With the NBA lockout nearing, fans can expect for this matter to be addressed. Raising the minimum age for NBA draft eligibility will not only help to produce more mature and NBA ready players in each draft class, but college basketball will also become more competitive. Many players drafted in the past two years have put up big numbers, but not all of them have shown readiness to play NBA caliber basketball. If college players spent more than one year in school, fans would see college dynasties rising and players would show more pride in their schools, chasing National Champions two, three, and some maybe even four years in a row.

Kansas is known for their consistent dominance and high caliber players, but in recent seasons, Jayhawk fans have seen their top players declare for the draft after their freshman year. The past few years, Kansas has been kicked out of the tournament early, only making it to the Sweet Sixteen once since their last appearance in the NCAA championship in 2012. This disappointment urges Jayhawk fans to ask themselves again: What if David Stern had raised the minimum age for NBA draft eligibility to 20 years old in 2011? Stars like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Ben McLemore might still be putting up shots on the hardwood at Allen Fieldhouse. Those are just the names of KU’s biggest stars in recent years. Add on the additions of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander and even some Kansas’ recruits who have yet to take the court like Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg, you begin to realize the type of star players that Kansas attracts. No other team would be able to match up with the strength, speed, and talent that this lineup has. An Indiana Hoosiers team with the additions of Noah Vonleh and Victor Oladipo would be nowhere close to competing with this Jayhawk team. Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor definitely would revamp this year’s Duke roster, but they are still miles away from the amount of talent that Kansas has acquired. Even the nearly undefeated University of Kentucky of last year alongside the likes of Nerlens Noel and Julius Randle would have a tough time keeping up with the pace and suffocating defense Kansas would impose on them. This goes to show just how well the Jayhawks have been recruiting in the past few years.

This hypothetical question is an interesting matter to look at. With how quickly some college stars get settled into the NBA, it would be beneficial to college basketball to see some of the younger players stay and play more than just one year. Hopefully the rise of the minimum age for draft eligibility will be an outcome of the looming NBA lockout and Kansas will create their own college super team of NBA caliber players.

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