The Portland Trailblazers drafted Jermaine Oâ€™Neal in 1996 in the first round seventeenth pick. He was seventeen years old and a graduating senior from high school. Jermaine is six feet eleven inches tall and two hundred and forty two pounds, clearly a NBA body. For the first four years of his career he averaged about eleven minutes a game. He only played in blowouts and as a reserve for tired or injured players. It was clear that Jermaine was not ready to step in and become a NBA star his first season. Not until four years of maturity and a trade from Portland to Indiana did his playing time go up. Jermaine has now played two seasons with the Indiana Pacers. In his first season he averaged thirteen points and nine point eight rebounds a game. Last year he averaged nineteen points and ten point five rebounds a game earning him a spot in the All Star game. What does this all mean, you may ask? The four years that Jermaine Oâ€™Neal spent sitting on the bench learning to become a NBA star, are the same four years he could have spent playing in college learning the same lessons. At the same time he could have been getting a free college education and making college basketball fun to watch. One of the best things about college basketball is watching an obviously talented player mature into a great player. The problem is that in recent years high school athletes have been skipping this opportunity to play in the NBA.
Since 1995 there have been fifteen high school athletes who have entered the NBA draft. Only four of the fifteen took less than four years to mature and reach their potential. I will give you some statistics on these four players. Kevin Garnett was drafted in the first round fifth pick in 1995. Kevin averaged twenty minutes and ten points a game in his first year. These were not exactly All Star numbers but the potential and ability was obviously there.