Checking in

Mike Jarvis

One of the best parts of writing for Yahoo! Sports is getting to read all the emails college hoops fans send me both during the season and after the season ends. I appreciate the many thoughtful, well-written and reasoned letters, and I try to read them all. It would, however, be a tall task to respond to each and every one – but don't let that stop you from writing. And please, be sure to include your name, city and state when you write.

My comments appear in italics.

Mike, I have been enjoying your column over the past few months. Your unconventional topics and unique behind-the-scenes insights have been a breath of fresh air compared to most of the other articles out there. My question to you is this: What does the A-10 need to do to return to its respected mid-'90s form?

Marc Keslow
New York

Marc, thank you for the kind words. As for the Atlantic 10, it needs to get more games on TV – even if it's local television. When I was at George Washington, just about every game we played was televised. That's one thing that was different. Second, back then the league adopted John Chaney's philosophy and played anyone, anywhere, at any time. Third was timing. When I came into the A-10, the Big East was in slight decline and we took advantage of it – beating its teams in many head-to-head confrontations. It got to a point where the Big East would not play us. Fourth, during the '90s, the A-10 had as many big-name coaches as the Big East (Chaney, Calipari, Catlett, Skinner, Martelli, Harrick and yours truly). Fifth (and last), the A-10 had some incredible rivalries, most notably Temple-UMass/Chaney-Calipari. A few more coaching additions like Rick Majerus (who's now at Saint Louis) could start the clock rewinding to the glory days of the '90s.

GREG ODEN TO THE NBA ("Weighty decision" April 18, 2007)

Coach, I appreciate your opinion and your call for a better understanding of what one can gain from staying in college a little longer. However, in this case, Greg Oden is not the poster-boy for your point (perhaps Tyler Hansbrough would fit your argument better). Oden is a virtual lock for the No. 1 pick – and is thus guaranteed job security and income for three years while he learns his job. No player should come back to college unless he plans to improve his draft status. We go to college to get a job – for me, that was via my degree. For someone like Greg Oden, he will get a job, too – a much better job. Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Isiah Thomas all stuck with it and got their degrees eventually. Julius Hodge stayed at N.C. State and had a mediocre senior year, thus hurting his draft prospects. The days of Tim Duncan and Grant Hill are over. If you achieve your highest possible draft status, that is when it is time to go.

Roger Ragland
Clayton, N.C.

Roger, I appreciate your opinion, especially because it isn't the same as mine. First of all, I think Tyler Hansbrough is a great college player, and with a little more skill development he will be a terrific pro. Like you, I believe that if he were to come out now he wouldn't be picked ahead of Oden or Durant. There are many people who agree with you about going to college to get a job, but because of the fact that the average life span of a professional basketball player is three and a half years, it's more than just a job and money. In fact, some of the most miserable people in the world have jobs that pay them the most money.

This is in response to your article on Greg Oden. You nailed it and I could not agree more with your sentiments. I have a hard time with sports commentators that in a way seem to push kids in the direction of money rather than their education. You did fail to note that Oden only played a little over a half a season, and to my recollection, had only one game where he was not in foul trouble. Nobody is saying he is not a great talent. I, however, think he is a work in progress.

Jim Broderick

Thanks for your email, Jim. After my article ran, my wife also mentioned that I failed to mention the fact that Oden missed a great deal of the year with an injured hand. I also believe that the commentators and analysts are guilty of pushing kids to the next level in order to hype the game – we should know better. Oden is a great talent and if he maintains a positive attitude and continues to work hard and God blesses him with good health, he someday may become one of the great big men to play the game.

Excellent article comparing Oden to Ewing. Could not agree more. Although I think Oden will be fine regardless of what he chooses to do, there are other players, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook, who will be making a mistake when they choose to go. What would you think of a system which limits a jump to the pros only after making first-, second- or third-team All-America status? I know this would be impossible to enforce, but at least it would stop players (and NBA talent scouts) from making bad decisions. Seriously, if you cannot make All-America, how can you believe you are ready to play against even better competition every night?

Dayton, Ohio

There are too many players like Conley and Cook who would be making a huge mistake if they leave college for the pros. I once had a player like Daequan Cook named Omar Cook, who left school after one year for the pros. He didn't make the team after being drafted in 2001 and has been in the D- League nearly ever since. What is he or any of these guys prepared to do when the ball stops bouncing – a day that will come sooner rather than later? You make a great point about kids having to prove themselves in college, but you are right when you say that your system would not be implemented. It makes too much sense.

I find it odd that there's always the assumption that players must earn their degrees during their four years of basketball scholarships – it's either go pro or get a degree. But that's really an artificial choice – giving up one's athletic eligibility does not mean giving up his academic eligibility. Several players have finished their degrees after leaving college for the pros (Vince Carter and Michael Jordan come to mind), but I am sure there are plenty of others. If an education is important to Oden, there's no reason he can't earn his degree in the offseason or after he's finished his NBA career. The choice Oden faces is whether he is ready to give up playing college basketball, not a college education.

Kent Durham

Kent, you are absolutely right about the assumption that players must earn their degrees during four years of basketball scholarships when it takes the average student five to six years to earn a degree. Yes, there are players like Jordan and Carter who earn their degrees after turning pro, but those players are few and far between. On the other hand there are players who earn a degree, but the degree is not worth the paper it is written on. It is this reason that I am a proponent of earning a meaningful degree that prepares one for all that life has to offer. My "Nothing but Net" article speaks to this point.

No question, just wanted to say nice job on the Greg Oden article. I totally agree. I grew up in the Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan era and firmly believe they became the players they were because they stayed in college as long as they did.

John Wittler
Melbourne, Fla. (formerly of New Castle, Ind.)

Not only do I agree with you on how Greg will be able to further develop his game in the college ranks, but I especially respect your comments on the character building that will occur while remaining in the college arena. Although I think Greg has handled himself well with the media (given his "freshman phenom" status) there is no doubt he can only become a better "man" by sticking around at least another year. I don't see the NBA building character! Keep up the good work; there are still some of us who appreciate your "old school" perspective.

Lancaster, Ohio

Clark, thanks for your feedback regarding Oden's choices. My article may not have done anything to keep Oden in school, but it did give us something important to talk about. Character, attitude and things like our ability to get along with others as well as our ability to handle adversity always will be worthy of our time and attention – they never go out of style. At least not to a couple of "old school" guys like you and me.

Mr. Jarvis, Your summary of Greg Oden's situation could not be further from the truth. Rather than reiterate the intrinsic and professional rewards of Oden staying in school another year, let me give you another perspective: that of the fans. I, as a fan of the NBA, am tired of seeing players who come out of high school or after one year of college and are lauded as prodigies but lack the polish, maturity and crispness that at least three years in college would allow them to benefit from. The best example of this is another player who grew up not too far from Patrick Ewing – Tim Duncan. The man could have been a first-rounder early; instead, he stayed on board, worked extra hard on his game and has since won three NBA championships. I am sick of seeing incomplete players like Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard and – gasp – LeBron James. I would take it a step further than you and suggest that the NBA make it a requirement for a player to hold a four-year degree from an institution. I think it makes for what really counts here – the best product the NBA could possibly offer its fans rather than having us wonder what might have been with some of the talent struggling for an identity while they develop at a level way higher than they should be playing at.

DJ Renza
Beacon Falls, Conn.

DJ, thank you for being so honest. As an NBA fan, you have a right to demand the best product that your money can buy. Legally the NBA could not make it a requirement that its players earn a degree, but if it established a minimum age requirement of 21, more players eventually would earn degrees and the quality of basketball would be greatly enhanced.

I agree with your article on Oden, but I don't think today's times compare. Nowadays, it's a hot market with lots of money in the front of the rainbow. Oden and others can get their degrees like me, and 95 percent of others pay for it. With millions he can also educate his whole family if needed. I don't think if you are facing millions of dollars you turn them down knowing it could all be over with one fall. I think you need to update your thinking and look at this kid's future as a whole, not just basketball.

James Conner

You are absolutely right when you say it could all be over with one fall. That's why they have insurance. Oden, because of his incredible potential, could have his cake and eat it, too. He could get his education, have money in his pocket and be protected against that career-ending injury. In the end, I think Oden and others like him will have much more productive and meaningful lives if they stay in school and get real degrees.