On April 5th of this year, CNN ran a story titled, “Life after basketball takes former players down different paths.” I don’t recall this story being posted on KSR at the time (I think we were still celebrating too hard and missed it), but if it was I apologize. The article centers around a former UConn basketball player and college dropout, Jonathan Mandeldove . Given the fact that UConn is not eligible for the NCAA Tournament this season due to academic struggles, Mandeldove’s story doesn’t really raise anyone’s eyebrow. But did you know, according to the article, that Florida, Michigan, and Indiana have graduated less than 50% of their non NBA-bound players in the last six seasons? Or do you know that more than a dozen schools didn’t graduate at least half their players in recent seasons?
There is a difference between departing seniors and graduating seniors. Billy Donovan, a coach who is thought to do things “the right way”, keeps most of his players around for four years at Florida. The misconception is that all of these players graduate, but many of them don’t. Florida has graduated 38% of its players excluding those bound for the NBA in the last six years. I seem to recall they’ve had a lot of seniors go through their program, but just because a player goes through Senior Day festivities, it doesn’t mean they are going through a graduation ceremony. At UK under John Calipari, players have left the program in good academic standing and continued to be successful in one of three ways:
- Earn millions in the NBA
- Do both, like Patrick Patterson (after 3 years) or Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller (after four)
Or possibly, as we saw this week, you can still leave school after only a year and decide to return in future summers to continue your education. It may take a while, but eventually it can be done.
We learned this week that Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will return to UK this summer to continue their education. To me, this is a big story that hasn’t quite received the attention it deserves. How many No. 1 and No. 2 draft picks are concerned about continuing college credit hours the summer after they become millionaires in the NBA? Not many, but if Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist follow through with their education, they’ll have plenty of options to consider in their lives after basketball. If they ever want to pursue coaching, for example, they can do that with a college degree.
Whatever your opinion is of John Calipari, you cannot deny that his players come first. When players leave Kentucky, they are better off than they were before, which is actually what higher education is supposed to do for students. As you can see in the CNN article, that isn’t the case in a whole lot of places. The title of the article, “Life after basketball takes former players down different paths,” does seem to be true at Kentucky, but in a good way. Mark Krebs, for example, wrote an inspirational book about his Mom’s battle with cancer and is now pursuing an acting career. Krebs’ life after basketball has taken a very different path than many of his Kentucky teammates now in the NBA, but what seems to be the common denominator is that all of Calipari’s players at UK seem to do very well after they leave the program in good standing (a couple have not, and aren’t doing as well).
There are a lot of things wrong with college basketball right now, but it’s not the “one and done” rule or John Calipari like many may suggest. Maybe it’s time for Pete Thamel, Pat Forde and the rest of the moral compasses of college basketball to start knocking on doors around Gainesville, FL to see what’s going on down there. As much as I’d like to hammer Indiana for their poor graduation rate, it’s likely a result of the Sampson era. Billy Donovan at Florida, however, has no excuse for graduating only 38% of his non-NBA departures.
EDIT: Thanks to Brandon from the comments section, you can click here for the most recent release of UK’s 78% graduation rate in comparison.