In the current recruiting climate, it has become a trend for exceptionally talented young high school players to reclassify to the class above. It could even be labeled a phenomenon of sorts. With the reclassification of Andrew Wiggins to 2013, the last two recruiting classes will very likely be headed by two kids who reclassified. Kentucky’s very own Nerlens Noel did the same thing as Wiggins and became the #1 player of his class, and Wiggins will do the same. There are others who have not had the same effect: Alex Murphy of Duke reclassified and ended up redshirting his first year. When the best of the best are stepping out of high school a year early, it makes one ponder both how and why.
Elite recruits are in a special position sometimes, leading to possible ways to leave high school as soon as they can. There are pros and cons to this. While I am sure we all would have loved to leave high school as quick as we could, there are plenty of lasting memories that kids make in high school. (See: Julius Randle attending his homecoming instead of Big Blue Madness.)
However, these major athlete kids have are given great advice from people who know how college academics and entry standards work. Also, great recruits often end up at prep schools, where summer work and fast-track classes are often offered. All of this requires pretty good grades and the ability to earn extra credits (and a 19th birthday that falls before end of that draft year).
If you were one of the best athletes playing your sport in the world with loads of potential earnings at your door and NBA GMs drooling over your game, you know what you’d do? You’d go straight to the NBA out of high school.
Oh, wait…you can’t do that anymore. Nevermind.
Instead, you need to be of a certain age, which often includes playing a year of college ball (unless you’re Brandon Jennings). So it makes total sense given the one-and-done rule for the best of the best to get to college early and thus become one year removed from high school. For many of these players, it is a business decision — if you get to the NBA quickly, then you have an immediate income, a longer shelf-life, more time to learn the pro-style game, and your rookie contract will be up one year earlier, at which point you can negotiate that career-making free agency contract.
Of course, getting to college a year early is great for that elite player’s national exposure and his first primer to high-level basketball before he gets to the NBA. When a player possesses the athletic and skill tools necessary to make this reclassification jump, the benefits are great.
However, only the absolute best players should consider reclassifying. The jury is still out on Nerlens Noel, but Alex Murphy’s redshirt is a good example of the pros and cons cancelling each other out and just leaving a kid with one year less of the high school carefree lifestyle and memories.
This interesting classification trend is solidified by today’s announcement regarding Andrew Wiggins. It will be very interesting to see how the next superstar recruit goes about his recruitment. (Pure speculation, but the next superstar seems to be Karl Towns of 2015.)
Reclassifying can be a tool for a kid to reach his dreams faster and change his life, along with that of his family. If you think about it, it represents everything Coach Calipari strives for when it comes to seeing players succeed.