The Stats Don't Lie

Their scoring may be high, but college basketball players' graduation rates are low.

A couple of years ago, UCD agreed to become the "official educator" for a new basketball league. Called the National Rookie League, the Washington D.C.-based organization works like this: The NRL would, in effect, take over for the NCAA as the NBA's minor league. Kids with nothing but basketball on their minds would enter the league straight out of high school. A player would be permitted to stay until he was 24, at which point it would be time for him to start fishing in the NBA or cut bait and enter the real world. In exchange for their time and talents, the players would be paid. The compensation would come in the form of salary and expenses, plus an education stipend. Which is where UCD comes in.

During the basketball season, all the NRL players would be doing is playing ball. But in the off-season, they'd be given the opportunity to study a very fundamental college curriculum currently being developed by UCD. "We have experience in working with students at this level," says Martinez, "those who need help with the very basics." In other words, young, mostly black men with dreams of the NBA. The courses will include simple but ignored life skills such as money management, communications and interpersonal skills along with basic academic offerings.

The National Rookie League hopes to tip off its first games sometime this year. You may not agree with the priorities of young men whose only goal is to lace up high-tops and throw, dribble, and shoot a ball when they could be learning Shakespeare. But at least it's not fraud.

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