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Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Youth Movement

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

The NBA draft is loaded with talented underclassmen. Are you shocked that Kentucky's Julius Randle joined Jabari Parker of Duke and Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid of Kansas? How can these kids turn down the kind of money being thrown at them as a high first-round draft pick?

With the stroke of a pen, their lives will be changed forever. They will earn the kind of cash that will not only change their lifestyles but also the lifestyles of their families. The money is just unbelievable.

Even if, in their hearts, they want to return to school, it is a scenario where there is always the risk of injury. The piles of cash could disappear with a catastrophic injury on the collegiate hardwood, and the lure of the pros and the fear of something going wrong leave the athlete no choice.

The big question is are they ready to perform at the next level? You don't want to sign just one contract for your career. Guys like Parker, Wiggins, Embiid, Randle and Arizona's Aaron Gordon have long-term futures ahead. These guys will be able to make an impact at the NBA level.

Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins' skills are well-suited to the fast-paced NBA game.

A kid like Embiid will be a long-term project who will get better and better with more experience. He has the willingness to get better and showed progress in Lawrence. He has to get stronger physically while learning the skills to be efficient in the post. The team that selects him will have to be patient.

Parker has the whole package; he can handle the ball, rebound and defend and is strong physically. He improved defensively, and now the question is can he endure an 82-game season plus the playoffs?

If I had the No. 1 pick, I would go with Parker. He is the real deal in every way possible.

Wiggins will be a star in the pros. The 24-second clock and transition game will be perfect for his style of play. Along with Parker, Wiggins will have the greatest immediate impact of the youngsters turning pro.

Gordon is a defender and shot-blocker who can change the complexion of a game. He will get better on the offensive end. I see Gordon improving the way Anthony Davis has in New Orleans. Both possess tremendous attitudes to go with their great physical skills. And Randle will be a solid pro with his rebounding and scoring ability.

There has been so much talk about the one-and-done hurting college basketball. Some believe that the NBA is hurt too. Players need more experience coming into the league, and new commissioner Adam Silver has established a 20-year-old age rule as a priority. Of course, the players' association will have something to say about that.

Kids go to college to prepare for their futures. How do they turn down that money? I wish we did not have the one-and-done, as some kids are good enough to go right from high school to the NBA.

College basketball should adopt the college baseball model; once you step on the campus, you are there for three seasons. That would provide stability for the college game, the pros and the athlete. College is for those who want to be there. It is for people who want to be students and enjoy the collegiate lifestyle.

College is not for everybody. So we look forward to this loaded draft with over 30 underclassmen declaring already.