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The 1-and-Done College Basketball Debate: Do They Help or Hurt the Program?

With Kentucky and its four freshman losing in Elite 8 and all possibly entering the NBA draft, we wondered: Just how much of an impact have 1-and-done players have on programs in the last decade? Starting with 2001, we took a look at 22 elite 1-and-done players to see what kind of impact – if any – they had on their respective programs. The results were a bit surprising – we only found eight of the 22 to have had a positive impact on the program, and in the last two years, we surmised that most of the 1-and-done players actually had a negative impact.

2001 Draft
Eddie Griffin was considered one of the five best recruits in the high school class of 2000. Tommy Amaker recruited him to Seton Hall. The Pirates made the Sweet 16 in 2000, and the addition of Griffin was supposed to make the program a Final 4 contender. The Pirates only went 16-15 (Griffin posted good numbers). After one year at Seton Hall, Griffin was taken 7th overall in the NBA draft. Griffin’s impact? None. Seton Hall didn’t make the NCAA Tournament again until 2004. One could argue that season was such a disaster – team in-fighting, it began the downfall of Tommy Amaker – Griffin’s arrival was negative to the program.

Zach Randolph was the other 1-and-done in 2001. Michigan State was coming off a title in 2000, and added an elite recruit in Randolph. Cleaves and Mo Pete graduated, but Randoph’s presence helped Michigan State return to the Final Four (thumped by Arizona, which lost the title game to Duke). Randolph’s numbers were ordinary, but he left school anyway. He was taken 19th overall. Randolph’s impact? Negligible, at best. Izzo runs a great program, recruits well, and the loss of Randoph didn’t matter. They were in the Elite 8 two years later.

2002
DaJuan Wagner, a high school scoring machine, went to Memphis in 2001. He was a prolific scorer with the Tigers. They won the NIT. He left and was taken 6th overall in the NBA draft. Wagner’s impact? Next to nothing. Calipari was in the embryonic stages of building a mini empire in Memphis, but the program didn’t become relevant to the NCAA tournament until 2006.

2003
Carmelo Anthony. Star coming out of high school backed it up by averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds and leading Syracuse to the title, its first since 1926. Anthony scored 53 points in the Final Four. He was taken 3rd in the draft by the Nuggets and is an elite NBA player. Anthony’s impact?: Amazing. Exactly what you want from 1-and-done studs – a title.

Chris Bosh. Went to Georgia Tech. Averaged 15 points and nine rebounds and led the Jackets to the … NIT. Left for the pros and was the 4th overall pick. Bosh’s impact? Better than nothing, but difficult to quantify. The year after Bosh left, when not much was expected, the Jackets went to the title game, losing to Connecticut. The ’02 freshman tandem of Jack and Chris Bosh was highly-touted. Did Jack go to Georgia Tech because of Bosh? (We couldn’t find that answer online.) Did the signing of a star like Bosh open the eyes of other potential recruits in the years that followed? Up for debate. Two years later, Paul Hewitt landed three Top-100 recruits. But was that due to Bosh, or a byproduct of going to the title game?

2004
Luol Deng. The best player in the class of 2003 (besides LeBron) went to Duke and was immediately a factor. Along with JJ Redick and Shelden Williams, he led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, where they lost to Connecticut, 79-78 in an epic game. Deng led Duke with 16 points in that game. Then, he surprised some folks by leaving after one year and was the 7th pick in the draft. (Note: Shaun Livingston went 4th in that draft; he was a lock for Duke before declaring for the draft. Those two are the primary reason Duke didn’t get back to the Final Four until this year. Livingston was supposed to take over at point for Chris Duhon.) Deng’s impact? Positive in that he helped take them to the Final Four (could they have done it without him? Maybe); negative in that his surprising early departure left a massive hole in the Blue Devils’ 2005 team, which was highly-ranked all season but was upset in the Sweet 16 to LSU.

2005
Marvin Williams. A top 15 player in the high school class of 2004, Williams joined a stacked UNC team and won a title. He was basically a 6th man, and played … 4th fiddle to May-McCants-Felton. Of course, he was drafted ahead of all of them. Williams’ impact? Tough to knock any guy who shows up and helps his team win a title. The following year, Roy Williams brought in a very good recruiting class with Hansbrough was at the center of it – but the young Heels were ousted in the 2nd round of the tournament by … George Mason. Chances that happens with Williams starting next to Hansbrough? Slim and none.

2006
Tyrus Thomas. Wasn’t an elite player coming out of high school because he was such a late bloomer, going through several growth spurs and eventually redshirting at LSU as a freshman. Got in the lineup and became a highlight reel player due to his leaping and showblocking ability. Had a great 2006 NCAA tournament when he – along with Big Baby Davis – led LSU to the Final Four. His stock soared and poof, he was gone. The Bulls took him 4th overall in the draft. Thomas’ Impact? An odd case because he didn’t arrive in the program as a player who would be 1-and-done. And it isn’t like he was projected as a key starter for four years when he arrived – they only way he got a scholarship was when they they kicked a JUCO off the team. Note: the Tigers didn’t make the NCAA tournament the next two years.

2007

Greg Oden. Easy – was only expected to stay a year, and led Ohio State to the Final Four, losing in the title game to Florida. Oden’s Impact?: Incredible. On this entire list, Anthony is the Gold Standard, and Oden is tied with Derrick Rose for 2nd.

Kevin Durant. Elite recruit was a instant superstar in the Big 12, but in an odd twist, he couldn’t get the Longhorns to the Sweet 16. It’ll probably end up being the only negative footnote in an illustrious NBA career. Durant’s Impact?: Tough to say it was anything but a positive, since he was such a star as a freshman for the Longhorns. But without him, Texas went to the Elite 8 the following year.

Mike Conley. As OSU rolled through the season and into the Final Four, it became pretty clear that Conley – who put up solid numbers as a freshman – was probably going to go pro. The Grizzlies took him 4th in the draft. Conley’s impact?: Definitely very, very good. Tough to knock him for leaving early. It’s also tough to tell a kid to turn down lottery money. That being said … instead of NIT Champs in 2008, OSU could have had a Sweet 16 team with Koufus, Jamar Butler, and a young Evan Turner. Would love to know if Thad Motta thought that when he recruited Conley, he’d be 1-and-done. (The guy whose departure really hurt was Daequan Cook. He was the 6th man on that team that went to the title game, and was taken 21st in the draft. Even without Conley, Butler and Cook could have been a real nice backcourt in 2008.)

Brandan Wright. Started on the frontline with Tyler Hansbrough. Lost in overtime in the Elite 8 to Georgetown (memorable game). Entered the draft and the Warriors gobbled him up quickly. He hasn’t been heard from since. Wright’s impact? Without Wright, do they get to the Elite 8? (Guess – maybe.) With Wright, do they beat Kansas in the 2008 Final Four? (Guess – maybe.) He certainly was a better player than Deon Thompson. Remember when Cole Aldrich came off the bench and gave Kansas a few huge minutes (8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks in 17 minutes)? Does he do all that damage against Wright? Overall, we’ll say his impact was minimal – Roy Williams had to know Wright was a 1-and-done candidate.

Spencer Hawes. A huge get for Washington – in the class of 2006, he was the 2nd highest rated center behind Oden, but ahead of the Lopez twins (and Zoubek!). The Huskies had been to the Sweet 16 two years in a row and the addition of Hawes was supposed to be significant – especially alongside bruising PF Jon Brockman. Nope. The Huskies went 19-13 and missed the tournament. Hawes put his name in the NBA draft and was taken 10th by the Kings. He’s slowly coming along. Hawes’ Impact?: None. They narrowly missed the NCAA tournament the next year, but have made it the last two.

2008
Derrick Rose. No question – definitely worth it. Came within seconds of winning the title in 2008. Won Rookie of the Year, nearly led the Bulls to an upset over the Celtics in the first round, and looks to have a long, very productive NBA career. One could argue he’s already one of the 5-6 best point guards in the NBA. Impact: Very, very positive.

Michael Beasley. Even though his lone year at Kansas State ended with a 2nd round NCAA tournament loss, it was still positive because Beasley helped put KSU back on the college hoops map. The Wildcats hadn’t been in the tourney since 1996. And they got there the year after Beasley left and made a run to the Elite 8 this year. NBA career has been good so far, but when you consider the No. 2 pick the year before (Kevin Durant), Beasley’s NBA career will never match that. Impact: Very positive.

OJ Mayo. Couldn’t win the Pac-10 tournament. Couldn’t win a game in the NCAA tournament. Was a lottery pick who has found instant success with the Grizzlies. Impact: Negative. Tim Floyd ousted, NCAA sanctions.

Kevin Love. Stellar first year at UCLA – won the Pac-10 tournament, helped UCLA get to the Final Four. The question is whether or not UCLA thought he’d stick around for a year or two or bolt immediately. Was an NBA lottery pick and his NBA career is off to a nice start. Impact: Taking a team to the Final Four is always positive. Even though the team had other NBA talents, it is difficult to imagine a Final Four trip without Love.

Eric Gordon. Promising first year at Indiana (22-4 start) was ruined when Kelvin Sampson was ousted and the Hoosiers lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Clippers took him in the lottery and he looks like a future star. Impact: Deserves an asterisk. Nobody stuck around when Sampson was ditched, nor should they have been expected to.

2009 draft

Tyreke Evans – Can’t fault the kid for leaving Memphis early, since he was clearly ready and his coach left for Kentucky. He’ll be the NBA ROY and looks like a steal for the Kings. Impact: None, unless you count one tournament win. Calipari leaving trumped Evans leaving early.

DeMar DeRozan – Good but not great freshman season at USC, but can you fault him for leaving? The program was about to fall apart, his coach was ousted, and he had nothing to gain by saying. Impact: None, unless you count one tournament win. Floyd’s ouster trumped DeRozan’s decision.

Jrue Holiday – This one had to surprise Ben Howland. Holiday was a reserve as a freshman, and scored just 1 point in the Pac-10 Championship game and 4 points in the 2nd round NCAA tournament loss to Villanova. He clearly wasn’t ready for the pros. The 76ers took him at 21 anyway, and he’s had a decent rookie season. He’s gotten a bit lucky since they’ve had injuries at point guard. Impact: Negative. The Bruins were a mess this year, and had Holiday stuck around, those 14 wins could have easily became 19-20 in the terrible Pac-10.

BJ Mullens – His signing was supposed to be a coup for the Buckeyes because he was a McDonald’s All-American and according to some, the best high school player in the 2008 class. But his uneven play as a freshman ended with a 1st round NCAA tournament loss to Siena. Impact: Negative. Thad was getting elite recruits before him. Mullens, who has been a complete non-factor in the pros, could have been used against Tennessee in the Elite 8 – OSU was outrebounded 36-23 and allowed the Vols 18 offensive rebounds. (Bonus: We didn’t mention Kosta Koufos earlier, but damn, if he and Mullens had played this year, the Buckeyes would definitely be in the Final Four.)

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