On April 16, Kyle Young announced via Twitter that he would be taking advantage of the extra eligibility afforded to student-athletes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Young will be using a fifth year of eligibility in 2021-22 and bringing back his unique blend of toughness and leadership. The announcement — albeit not that of a superstar — was a big boost for an OSU men’s basketball team fresh off of a major disappointment in the NCAA Tournament.
Since then, they have also added experienced transfers from within the Big Ten, and have to believe one or both of E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. — who are both exploring the NBA draft — will be returning as well. However, if both of 2020-21’s top scorers choose to pursue careers elsewhere, the Buckeyes can rest assured that they have a grizzled veteran of 446 collegiate games coming back to captain the ship.
Jokes aside, Young’s return is great. Not just for him, but for those of us who appreciate what amateur athletics should be about. They should be about fun. They should be about growth and realizing potential. They — hold on to your seats one-and-done fans — should be about team building and cohesion; then hoisting a trophy with a group of people you have gone to battle with over multiple years.
Transfer portals and transcendent freshman have a place in college sports. Anyone who argues differently, likely has a bias against players — yet likely have no issues with coaches who leave after one year at a school.
But are college sports still fun for the fans? Does school and team-allegiance still exist, or are we heading towards the NBA model of player-allegiance? The fact that this column exists on a fan site should tell you that the questions are rhetorical, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason for concern.
Check out the states of Kentucky and Duke basketball. Any fan would take their past NCAA titles and the bragging rights. But how does 9-16 taste? Who are “their guys” that they root for?
It is incredibly likely that both of those programs bounce back quickly. The pandemic affected all of us, and college athletes and coaches are no exception. But that being said, I think that I would rather take a subpar season where I’m invested in the players because I’ve seen them grow over multiple seasons over the excitement and consequent letdown of a heralded group that never became a team before disbanding for the NBA.
If you take your fan-hat off, it is easy to see that this new era affects players too. They get hyped up by people in their ears, telling them that they should never see a bench unless it’s during a timeout.
“You’re the best guy on the team, that should’ve been your shot,” is what they hear. The money available is so tempting (rightfully so) that college sports are becoming less about team goals — and more about individual accomplishment; i.e. earning potential.
That leads to young adults making some really poor decisions that could hurt the rest of their careers, and more importantly: their lives. Just this past weekend, dozens of players who chose to leave school early went undrafted in the NFL Draft; and because of how NFL and NCAA rules are structured, they might never get another shot to show what they are capable of on a football field.
Usually talent finds an audience, but for those guys it will be exponentially more difficult. Nothing beats the exposure of millions of people watching your college football game on television. No private position coach is going to be able to elevate you the same way that a full-padded practice does. Examples in basketball are even easier to find.
The NBA has led the charge to provide an opportunity for athletes to leave college early — or skip it entirely — and pursue a paycheck. More power to them and to the athletes. I don’t begrudge anybody for chasing the dream and the money.
However, the NBA consists of about 400 players. Each year, their draft consists of at least that many players. In 2020, there were over 200 early entrants and European players combined — IN ADDITION to players who had exhausted their NCAA eligibility.
The point is: basketball players with remaining college eligibility wash out every year.
So good for Kyle Young. In reality, although it seems like he’s been at OSU forever, this will just be his fifth year as a Buckeye. Fifth-year seniors will be even more prevalent this year due to the pandemic. He is a fringe NBA prospect at best, and he will use the additional year to improve his game. Not to mention, he is an Ohio guy, and being a student at OSU is a hell of a time!
While others jump at their first chance to leave, Young has chosen a different route. Maybe in his mind, he will never play professionally. I tend to disagree; I think there will be opportunities somewhere. But if this is his last ride, why not enjoy the experience for all it’s worth? Buckeye fans will be more than happy to watch his on-the-floor brand of basketball for another season.