John Calipari didn’t take long to send a message in the aftermath of Nerlens Noel’s season-ending ACL injury. Usually Calipari’s messages are directed mostly toward Big Blue Nation, and sometimes even future recruits. Tonight, his message seems to have a larger intended audience. Calipari’s message from his CoachCal.com article tonight is this:”Let’s do everything we can to take care of our kids.”
The article starts out with a rather shocking stat when you think about it. In Calipari’s 22 years of being a men’s college basketball head coach, Noel’s injury is the first season-ending injury for one of his players to occur during the season. Think about that for a moment. Twenty two years, and Nerlens Noel is the first. That stat in and of itself is absurd.
Calipari admitted that when an injury such as the one Noel incurred on Tuesday night takes place, the initial reaction is often “why did this happen?” Calipari said that Nerlens is going to be just fine though, and that he spoke with him about 3 things yesterday:
1. I told him that this is an injury that Adrian Peterson and others have come back from quickly and were better after than they were before.
2. If the injury would have been more than we thought– which it wasn’t– you have insurance, which will make you an instant millionaire.
3. If the rehab is longer than you think or you don’t feel like you are prepared to take the next step, you’re academically in a good place to where you can come back and be the best big man in the country next year as you work through it
Calipari then went on to discuss a number of other issues that he believes we should all be talking about more. To paraphrase, here are some of the issues:
— Every year, 5 or 6 of Kentucky’s players are insured as part of the NCAA Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program in case they suffer a career-ending injury. His players don’t have to get it, but they talk to them about the advantages and disadvantages. *ONLY CAREER ENDING INJURIES
— Cal’s problem with the insurance is that the players have to agree to pay a premium. Cal asks, “why wouldn’t the school or NCAA (who is making billions off of these kids) not pay it?” If a player takes the insurance and doesn’t end up in the NBA, they are still obligated to pay the money back.
— On injuries like this leading people to say that kids should be able to leave for the NBA right out of high school: What if the kid is injured (career-ending) during his senior year of high school? Or junior year? Etc.
— On making the jump to the D-League if they leave straight from high school: Cal says minor league basketball is not like minor league baseball where you can work your way through the ranks. “That’s a man’s league (D-League), not suited for high school kids.” Cal says that if you ask any player in the NBA, they would admit that college is the best training ground.
And in perhaps Calipari’s most poignant message, he talks about a potentially different landscape than what we are accustomed to in college basketball. His vision and questions he raises once again show that he is constantly thinking of ways to make the system better for the kids. Here are his thoughts in full:
“So what are we preparing these kids for, failure? Why wouldn’t we try to encourage kids to be in school longer than one year? Why wouldn’t we pay for their disability insurance? Why wouldn’t we give these kids a stipend? Why wouldn’t we make loans available for their families while they’re in school so they’re not encouraged to do something that’s not in their best interest for financial reasons? Are you telling me that a year of college did not help John Wall or Anthony Davis or Nerlens Noel? One year worked, so let’s try two.
If the NBA Players Association won’t work with the NCAA to make it mandatory, let’s encourage the kids and educate them on why this is a better route. If we can keep kids in school two years, they are so close to graduating that it makes it easier to see themselves coming back to school to finish. Understand that if a kid goes to college for two years and three summers, he will be a little more than a year away from a college degree. And what about the ripple effect of that education? Their children can now say, “My dad did it so I can do it too.”
Why wouldn’t we encourage this?”
I really encourage everyone to go read the article in full on CoachCal.com. Calipari shows once again that he is not only a forward-thinker when it comes to the institution and system of college basketball, but that he also is constantly striving to find ways to make it better for the young men he coaches.