In the 1995 NBA Draft, Kevin Garnett became the first high school player in the Lottery era to skip college and make the jump to the pros. Since then, an increasing number of high school basketball players have declared for the draft.
Plenty of attention is given to the athletes who successfully make the leap, such as Garnett and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant.
However, many players are not as lucky.
Going Pro, written by Donald Moss, sheds light on several professional hopefuls whose dreams did not come true.
Moss, a former football player at the University of Southern California (USC), spoke about his book at Pearson Hall on Wednesday night. He got the idea to write Going Pro after seeing a former teammate scalping tickets. Moss thought it was odd to see his former teammate involved in an illegal business.
“He had the opportunity to get a good education at a good institution”, Moss said, “but he blew it by devoting all his attention to sports”.
Going Pro is Moss’ first book. For the last 10 years, he has worked as a freelance journalist, and currently lives in Glendale, Ca.
Moss points the biggest finger at parents for not emphasizing education over sports. Too often, “parents and students think sports is the fast track to riches”, Moss said, “but an athletic scholarship should never be confused for a lottery ticket”.
Moss also blames greedy agents who deceive young athletes into thinking they are good enough to play professionally when they are really not.
“Agents come across as doing whatever it takes to make you successful”, Moss said. “Greater parental involvement and a better business sense could prevent these young kids from being tricked”.
With the NBA drafting more and more high school athletes, Moss feels too many kids are being “sucked in,” and are “receiving a false sense of security.” He often talks to young kids about the 500,000-to-1 odds of making it to the pros out of high school.
In his talks, Moss compares all the aspiring professionals to a row of cars.
“Imagine lining up 500,000 cars, with one key that starts only one of the cars; the chance you will pick the right car is the same chance you’ll have of being drafted out of high school,” he said.
Moss also feels student athletes fail to fully take advantage of their talent.
“[Their athletic ability] provides them with a free college education, along with the opportunity at riches through sports.”
In other words, a sports scholarship provides two avenues for success: one through sports, and another through education.
Moss points out that “athletes do not prepare for the future” by ignoring education. A college degree from a major university could provide these athletes with a vital backup plan in case sports do not work out. “Once an athlete gives up going to college, he/she is really rolling the dice,” Moss said.
At one time sports wasn’t just about the money. When asked if we will ever return to those times, Moss said, “Not unless universities begin to separate athletics from academics.”
“Too many athletes are athlete-students instead of student-athletes,” he said.
He also said that some universities experience the “Flutie Factor.” This refers to Boston College’s sudden spike in enrollment thanks to Doug Flutie’s famous Hail Mary touchdown pass in 1984. Small schools in particular rely on sports, hoping that a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament will equal national attention and more money for the university.
Michael Sachs attended Moss’ discussion last Wednesday. Sachs, a professor in Kinesiology here at Temple, believes Going Pro is appropriate reading material for “anybody interested in college sports and its ongoing problems.” He also said it could “give athletes second-thoughts before deciding to risk their future on sports.”
Moss’ biggest concern about athletes who skip college is that they lack maturity.
“There is a maturity process that only comes from going to college,” he said. “By not going, these athletes lack the maturity needed in the outside world.”
This lack of maturity affects even the athletes who do make it, because they are less prepared to handle the pressures and temptations that professional athletes face.
Dan Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.