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Turning professional when a player’s stock is high is best solution.

Eric Moelleroraclemoeller@yahoo.comCOLUMNIST

Here’s a hypothetical question: If you were a teenager being told by numerous reliable sources you had the opportunity to get paid millions of dollars a year working for one of the country’s most prestigious industries, would you postpone or even bypass attending college in order to do it?Most people wouldn’t think twice. And why should they?

Tuesday, Texas star freshman basketball player Kevin Durant announced he would not be returning to the Longhorns next season, opting instead to declare for the NBA Draft this June.

Durant is expected to be a top-five pick in the draft, almost guaranteeing him a multi-million dollar contract and an inevitable lucrative shoe endorsement. When that occurs, the former Longhorn will join a long list of players that have either skipped college entirely or left early for a chance to perform on basketball’s biggest stage.

Some might say Durant and players like him are throwing away a valuable opportunity. They say finishing a college career would allow the players to elevate their skills, mature as human beings and obtain an education that could be used if a career in basketball doesn’t pan out.

Last season, in acknowledgement of these concerns, the NBA instituted its age-restriction rule. The rule prohibits any person from playing in the NBA until after their 19th birthday.

As a result, players like Durant and Ohio State’s seven-foot star center Greg Oden were forced to play a season in college despite the likelihood that they would have been drafted straight out of high school. In fact, Oden was widely considered a lock for the No. 1 overall pick had he been able to declare last year.

O.J. Mayo, this year’s highest-rated high school player, signed a commitment to play basketball for Southern California next season, but has also made it clear that he has no intention of playing more than one year in college. Mayo has his sights set on the NBA and likely feels that he should be allowed to play professionally next season.After all, it has been done before.

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett are just a few examples of players that bypassed college entirely and went on to have highly successful NBA careers before the age-restriction rule was implemented.

If these players had the skills and maturity to skip the collegiate game and have success at the next level, why should the NBA be allowed to tell players like Mayo that he does not?

Not only does the rule jeopardize a player’s potential NBA career by exposing them to unnecessary injury, but it also undermines the integrity of collegiate basketball.

Forcing someone to play at least one year on a college team when they have the ability and desire to play professionally goes against the entire purpose of sports in general.

These “one and done” collegiate players will inevitably be more focused on avoiding injury and preparing for the NBA than winning a national championship while a less talented player who just wants to help his school bring home a title will be left on the bench or possibly even without a scholarship.

Ultimately, the decision to leave college early or bypass it entirely should be left up to the player and his family. A college program should not desire to have or accept a player who signs with them for one year simply because he is too young to go pro, and a potential NBA player should not be forced to turn down millions of dollars because society says he should attend college first.

Playing four years in college only improves a young players talent.

Brendan Galellaoraclegalella@yahoo.comCOLUMNIST

There is a misconception that staying in school means risking millions of NBA dollars.

While the decision to declare early for the NBA Draft is different for each player, outside pressure to leave school should not be applied on young men.

The entire reason for National Collegiate Athletic Association is to help student-athletes earn a degree, and college basketball players simply weren’t doing that. According to an AP report in 2006, 77 percent of Division I athletes graduated college within six years, but only 59 percent of men’s college basketball players earned their degree. Football and baseball saw 65 percent of their players graduate.

It is widely believed that if Florida junior Joakim Noah entered the draft last season, he would have been the No. 1 overall selection instead of Italy’s Andrea Bargnani.

Instead, Noah and the Gators cemented their legacy as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time after winning a second consecutive title. Noah is now just one year away from receiving a degree in anthropology.

Although it is unlikely Noah will be the top selection in this year’s draft, the latest mock draft by ESPN has the 6-foot-11 power forward going to the Phoenix Suns as the fourth selection.

Texas freshman Kevin Durant announced Tuesday he was going to forego his final three years of college and become eligible for the NBA Draft. While this is probably the best decision for Durant and his family, the reigning Player of the Year is definitely an exception.

Prominent players like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire have all enjoyed tremendous success and have the ability to finish their careers as some of the best players in NBA history. But those players would have been just as successful had they attended college.

If Bryant didn’t go straight into the league, he would have played for coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Would that have made him less of the player he is today?

This year marks the first when commissioner David Stern enacted a minimum-age rule of 19 to make sure incoming players can properly handle their newfound fortunes.

The Portland Trailblazers have been the embodiment of Stern’s philosophy. Prior to the 2004 NBA Draft, point guard Sebastian Telfair was set to join Rick Patino in Louisville and become the premier player in college basketball.

After being told by multiple “reliable” sources he would be a top-five selection and signing an endorsement deal with adidas, Telfair slipped to pick No. 13 and has struggled to establish himself as anything other than a backup point guard.

After two disappointing seasons in Portland, Telfair was dealt to the Boston Celtics and is now averaging 6.4 points in just 20.3 minutes per contest.

Telfair joined Portland as the team was trying to shed its infamous “Jailblazers” nickname the previous regime had earned for its troubles off the court.

According to an article in the Portland Tribune, Trailblazers forward Zach Randolph was caught at a strip club while on “bereavement leave” to attend the funeral of his girlfriend’s cousin.

Randolph spent one season at Michigan State and has had multiple problems off the court since entering the league in 2001.

In an attempt to turn around the struggling franchise, Portland acquired rookie shooting guard Brandon Roy in a draft-day trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves last June.

Roy contemplated skipping his fourth year at Washington to join the NBA, but remained in school, graduating with a degree in American Ethnic Studies and improved his game. During his senior season, Roy averaged 20.2 points per game, up from 12.8 during his junior year.

Not only is Roy (16.7 ppg) the leading contender for Rookie of the Year, he has become the cornerstone of the Portland franchise and will receive the amount of money due to a player of his caliber.

The last two players to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards – Tim Duncan and Steve Nash – graduated college, and Emeka Okafor was named Rookie of the Year after graduating from Connecticut in just three years. Is that just a coincidence? Four years at college significantly improves a young player’s development mentally and physically.

Stern set fourth the policy as an attempt to change some of the negative perceptions the league has been criticized for in recent years, and the continued development of the most talented players in the league will only improve the NBA.