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by the numbers
by dirk cotton

I was having a respectful debate with a friend about One-and-Done players yesterday when I realized that neither of us was completely aware of the actual historical statistics. One of my friend’s comments, for example, was, “yes, everyone does it, but no one as much as Kentucky and Memphis”. (One-third correct.)

Does everyone do it? I started to wonder. Probably not everyone, because most One-and-Done freshmen are going to want to play for a major basketball school, right? (Somewhat correct — some of the schools on the list will surprise you, especially Jackson Community College in Michigan.)

"One and Dones" took center stage in 2005, when the NBA Players Association added an age limit that required players entering the draft to be 19 years old or have completed their freshman year of college, but players have been leaving college for the NBA after their freshman year for a long time. I was able to find data back to the 1995-96 season.

This avoids the discussion of all the sophomores and juniors who bolt for the pros every year in every major sport. Those stars you see playing in the College World Series this week will be gone by the end of their junior year. It seems to be acceptable for a junior to leave.

Two years seems to be widely considered above contempt, though I personally don’t see how studying physical education and quitting halfway through college is a major improvement over One-and-Done. (My Dad would have called that a half-assed job.)

Three years is OK, two years occasionally draws a whadda-ya-gonna-do shrug, but a single year of college is an abomination in the eyes of God and, strangely, much worse than no college at all.

From my research, it appears that 73 players have left college since 1995 after a single season to enter the NBA draft, thereby giving up any remaining college eligibility. This includes the 2011-12 NBA draft class.

These players have come from 39 different colleges, so my friend’s contention that “everyone does it” is hyperbole. There are about 345 NCAA Division I schools so about 11% have contributed a One-and-Done to the NBA. Then again, the numbers show that the practice is not limited to the top basketball schools, as I had guessed.

The following graph shows the number of One-and-Dones leaving college by season. The numbers dramatically increased for the 2006-07 freshmen class as would be expected as a result of the Players Association rule change. I noticed a couple of interesting things.

2007-08 had the largest class of One-and-Dones (12). No doubt a flood from John Calipari’s Kentucky team, right? Actually, no. Calipari didn’t leave Memphis for UK until after the 2008 season. So, how many of those twelve did Calipari send to the pros from Memphis that year? One — Derrick Rose.

The next largest class of freshmen to go pro was 2009-2010 (10 players). UK contributed four players.

UK sends large numbers of One-and Done players to the pros every year, right? They sent four in 2010 and three this year, but only one (Brandon Knight) in 2011. Best I can tell, Kentucky never had a One-and-Done player before Cal, though he is clearly making up for lost time.

Next I looked at the number on One-and-Dones by school since 1995. Know what jumped out at me? Georgia Tech. Seriously? Five Yellow Jacket freshmen went to the NBA? Only UK has more.

But how about my friend’s contention that no one does One-and-Done to the extent Memphis does? Well, that’s true if you ignore UK, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Duke and Texas. Furthermore, Memphis State has only sent freshmen to the NBA under Calipari. My guess is that if you look at Memphis five years from now, they will no longer be in the top five.

The complete list of One-and-Done players from 1995 to 2012 can be found below. I compiled the list from an ESPN article and from a thesis1 on the impact of one-and-done players that was submitted to the University of North Carolina. Perhaps you can find data prior to 1995. If you do, let me know.

No matter how you feel about One-and-Done, and it seems that everyone except the NBA Players Association hates it, we should at least have the facts when we argue about it.

Now you have them.

(Click to enlarge.)

1THE EFFECT OF ONE-AND-DONE PLAYERS ON DIVISION I MEN’S COLLEGE, S. Brandon Fanney, A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.

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