Indiana Basketball – Dante Exum Declares for the NBA Draft, and That’s Just Fine for Hoosiers

by Kent Sterling

Dante Exum deserves a chance to play in the NBA as soon as he is deemed worthy - and he will be.

Dante Exum deserves a chance to play in the NBA as soon as he is deemed worthy – and he will be.

One-and-done basketball players have no place on a college campus, as they enter their chosen university with no desire to earn a degree or see college as anything but a stepping stone to the NBA.  Other schools might dream of dipping into the pool of very talented players prohibited from entering the NBA by its idiotic age limit, but Indiana University should be above that.

Australian stud Dante Exum has declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft, according to ESPN without playing a minute of college basketball because the NBA’s age limit does not apply to international players, and that is just fine.

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The 6’6″, 188 lbs. point guard will be selected among the top five in the June draft, according to various projections, and would have been planned on being a one-and-done player if he elected to play in Bloomington as was expected.

While winning is fun, it should be done with bonafide students, not those serving time in the pampered purgatory of a major university waiting for the calendar to roll over so they are eligible to achieve their dream.

Indiana, minus a brief stretch of misbehavior by Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson, has always prided itself in winning while adhering to the NCAA’s rules – as well as embracing the spirit of those rules.  Indiana graduates its student-athletes while providing them with actual educational opportunity.

To do anything less would be to cheat the athletes who deserve something more than a hearty handshake for filling Assembly Hall and driving TV ratings and sponsorship opportunities that drive revenue for the school.

Exum, if the reports of his excellence and dynamism are to be trusted, would have been a game changer for Indiana or another school, as he had not committed yet to play for Tom Crean.

Going straight to the NBA is exactly what he should do if that is his goal, and it’s what other players should be allowed to do.

The one-and-done rule is wrongheaded – existing only for the benefit of the NBA owners – and universities shouldn’t give its tacit approval for it by enrolling NBA players in waiting.

I’m glad Indiana was not put in a position to cross to the dark side where other coaches and universities – notably John Calipari’s Kentucky and Bill Self’s Kansas – find morally bankrupt success.

College should be for students-athletes, not pros in waiting.

Seven of the top ten draftees on Chad Ford’s latest mock draft are current college freshman, and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh is among them.  Whether he is able to go to the NBA after his freshman season is yet to be seen, but a year ago it was impossible to tell whether Vonleh was going to be a one-and-done player.  He was skinny and a year younger than others in his class.

That gray area is impossible to enforce, and while my seemingly selective application of virtue might be viewed as being through cream and crimson glasses, I draw the line where the development of a player is unforeseeable – as was Vonleh’s.

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The enrollment of Exum would have been an impossible-to-ignore transgression – perfectly legal, but perfectly wrong.

Indiana fans should be happy that Exum has chosen to be a pro at the time he’s ready, rather than at the first moment of eligibility.  The moral high ground is still the Hoosiers to claim – if not another chance for a banner.

14 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Dante Exum Declares for the NBA Draft, and That’s Just Fine for Hoosiers

  1. Jeff Gregory

    I tend to take the opposite and unpopular stance on this issue. With all the nonsense we see in pro sports, I think the NBA should require some sort of degree or certification for a player to be eligible to play. If not a four year bachelor’s degree of some sort, at least an associates degree that teaches a player proper public conduct and financial planning, etc. Most 18 year-old kids are not prepared for the lifestyle that the NBA thrusts upon them. If some players have the wisdom to shoot for something higher (like a B.A.), then that is just gravy.

    People may contend that one doesn’t need a degree to be good at basketball. I would argue that I could teach my job (that requires a degree) to someone without it and that person could be good in it. However, being able to get the degree shows employers that a kid has what it takes (in maturity, etc.) to see something through to completion and obtain objectives.

    Just my $.02.

  2. Colin

    Jeff Gregory, I think that is a fantastic idea. The NBA benefits by the additional exposure and seasoning the kids get in college; whether they like it or not, the players would benefit from a targeted curriculum to give them the tools navigate professional sports. Offering a two year curriculum would remove the arbitrary age requirement and restore a bit of credibility that the college game has lost. There are plenty of careers that require specific degrees, the NBA would be smart to adopt this approach.

    Kent, get on it!

  3. Cman

    We can blame Kentucky, Kansas , Duke and North Carolina but it doesn’t really matter they are going to keep going after one and done players every year. The blame is on the nba and not letting kids go to the nba straight after high school. It’s not those schools fault that these players are great and have to go to college for a year. I’m not for the one and done but everyone needs to quit attacking these colleges that go after them. If you want to go after someone and blame someone blame the nba it’s their fault and always has been.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      There is no doubt that the NBA is at fault for the adoption of the one-and-done rule, but the schools that corrupt an educational mission to market their universities through the talents of athletes are feeding the beast that ultimately will doom them. Pragmatics aside, it is morally bankrupt to provide a charade education as compensation for the level of work the athletic schedule those young men are required to produce.

  4. Warren / TN.

    The One and Done rule is an NBA rule, and the root of the problem lies not with those adapting to the rule to find success in the ever-changing reality of college hoops these days.

    I’m not going to take up for Coach Cal or any other university in going after one and done athletes, even though I’m a UK fan. All coaches and universities go after OAD athletes, and I see them simply making the best of the rule and working within the framework of the rules as they exist to find success. After all, everyone wants success. There’s nothing shady or wrong about that.

    Having said that, I would mildly rebuke Kent for having made a somewhat overly melodramatic case on the issue. Having OAD players doesn’t lead to a “dark (evil) side” of anything, Kent. Furthermore, your cream and crimson glasses where UK is concerned clouds your vision. “Morally bankrupt success?” Give me a break, please.

    Your use of the wording : “The enrollment of Exum would have been an impossible-to-ignore transgression” implies some kind of mortal sin in the eyes of God. Geezuz, Kent. Get over yourself with such ridiculous sentiment, seriously. Sorry I had to take you to task for that, but you really need to take a step away from the keyboard from time to time, methinks.

    If we’re honestly wanting to solve the issue of keeping kids in college longer, while balancing their dreams of moving on to the next level and retaining the quality of the college sport, clear minded and level headed folks at the NCAA and within the NBA need to get together and work it out.

    I’d love to see a two-year rule with a qualifying two year curriculum (along the lines of what was suggested above)that might address the problems in a more comprehensive manner. I don’t disagree that change is needed, it is needed!

    That said, let’s urge the people in the NBA and the NCAA to somehow bring this to the forefront in discussions to bring about a better product for both, as well as having the best interests of the student-athlete in mind.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      A few things, Warren. First, you can take me to task any time. You’re a smart and passionate guy, and you disagree with me. I welcome your thoughts regardless of whether I agree with them.

      Second, in freshman psychology, we were taught about Kohlberg’s three levels or morality. Pre-Conventional morality describes those who behave only in their best interest. Conventional morality describes those who follow rules for societal order. Post-Conventional morality describes those who do what they do regardless of rules or what will happen if they are caught breaking the rules, but because they believe they are right.

      What is the purpose of a university – or any of its departments (including athletics)? Is it to win basketball and football games, or to educate 18-to-24 year-olds. The right thing for a university to do is support its mission of education. When the focus deviates from that mission, the effort to educate is corrupted. That is my post-covention moral view of collegiate athletics.

      Pragmatically, I don’t see a lot of evidence that one-and-dines lead to hanging banners, but that is nowhere near the reason to avoid the one-and-dones. The only valid reason is to serve the mission of the university, and those that don’t deserve the corrupt result they cause.

      The framework within which programs like Kentucky work is conventionally moral – rewarding those only interested in working within the system without thought as to whether it is right or wrong. To take advantage of a bad rule rather than do what is right is a soulless abdication of duty as an educator.

      Third, you wrote, “clear minded and level headed folks at the NCAA and within the NBA need to get together and work it out.” That implies there are any clear minded and level headed folks aligned with either organization, and that they have any desire at all to work this out. There aren’t, and they don’t.

      Money governs all thinking in collegiate athletics, and like Deep Throat counseled Bob Woodward as he investigated the corruption in the Nixon Presidency, “Follow the money.”

      1. Warren / TN.

        Never took freshman psych in college, so thanks for that explanation and making the tie-in for your train of thought. I’ll readily admit, it’s a good point you make.

        As for your thought on my comment “clear minded and level headed folks …” well, admittedly I prefer to think more highly of people than they really deserve oftentimes, and I suspect you’re more on the spot on that observation than me. It’s ashame, really. But if there are those kinds of genuine people left in either the NBA or NCAA (and I REALLY hope there are), then they need to get busy asap.

        In an ideal world, you’d be absolutely 100% correct, and even in the real world in which we live in, you’re still correct in what you say as far as doing the right thing from a moral and ethical stance. I would love to see what you outline be the way it is, personally. It would be a far better world.

        Sadly, it has become all about the money. Much like the analogies I make in comparing America to the Roman empire, the corruption and money, abuse of power, lax morality and ethics, all lends itself to a repeat of the fall of that empire, as it will undoubtedly lead to the eventual fall of our fine nation. The OAD rule is indicative of the “smaller” ways in which we continue to go down that path.

        I guess the bottom line comes down to having the will to simply do the right thing. Maybe the only thing that can affect such change is a stand by us, the masses of people, to demand the right thing be done and the courage to make it happen. Here’s to hoping we can learn from the past and avoid mistakes that lead to such declines.

        Thanks, Kent !

        1. kentsterling Post author

          The sad thing is that everyone in those offices are bright and decent, but they have been rewarded through promotions to positions of power by safely treading through the endless minefields with potential litigation one step away at all times. They have learned to succeed with the current set of rules, and have no interest in putting their cushy livelihoods at risk through bold action into an unknown.

          That’s not only the reason that college athletics are at a crossroads, but why business in America has grown stale.

          Not sure what fun lies out there by doing the same thing and achieving the same result day after day and year after year.

  5. Come on

    Lets be honest, if Indiana doesn’t recruit or sign one and dones at the same rate as the top programs its not because we are some bastion of moral high-ground. It’s because we can’t. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be going after guys like Vonleh and Exum. Indiana was a power 30 years ago, but is now just another middle of the pack program. It also doesn’t help that our coach is a weirdo.

    Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa, some are better than others in any given year, but they are all on the same level… they are good programs, but not elite.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      I think it’s hard to grade the post-Knight era of Indiana Basketball because Davis was incompetent, Sampson was an amoral cheat, and Crean has only had two seasons since the great mutiny that came prior to and after his arrival. He started from scratch, and in two seasons with a real roster has won a Big Ten regular season crown, and then was beaten by two Final Four teams in the Sweet Sixteen.

      Indiana has won five NCAA Basketball Championships. The four Big Ten programs you list with Indiana have combined to win zero. Granted, Indiana has not won one since 1987, and haven’t been to the Final Four since 2002, but to say that Indiana and any of those schools occupy the same plane in the middle of the pack is nonsense.

      Indiana was on Vonleh and Exum long before they were thought to be one-and-done candidates. I’m not suggesting that Indiana try to recruit the middle, rather than the top guys, but I don’t like programs who seem to target and welcome eight month students.

      1. Come on

        I was talking about the current era of IU basketball, not 1987. Currently, Indiana is a middle of the pack big 10 program, just like those other schools I mentioned. I know as alumni we still think of good old IU as a top program, but the only consistent elite programs in the B1G right now are MSU and Ohio State, and Michigan seems to be making a push.

        What do you mean its hard for you to judge the post knight era of Indiana Basketball? Have you not been watching? Ill sum it up: WE HAVE SUCKED.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          It’s hard to grade IU post Knight because it wasn’t Indiana for the better part of eight years. It was a miss mash of boobery and corruption that dragged the program into the sewer. They abandoned the principles that defined the brand of Indiana Basketball. Recently, IU returned to the core ideals that give the program a meaningful point of differentiation.

          Ohio State has not been an elite program since Havlicek and Lucas.

        2. Jeff Gregory

          A school’s history and tradition play a role in evaluating the status of a program. It isn’t the end all or be all, but it is an element. Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about elite programs; we would be talking elite teams. In that sense, IU was elite last year because they were the sole title holder of the best conference in the country.


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