Jabari Parker

It's assumed that Chicago native and Duke forward Jabari Parker will enter the NBA draft this summer after just one year in college. (MCT photo / March 21, 2014)

Jabari Parker and Duke: gone. Andrew Wiggins and Kansas: eliminated. As the NCAA tournament zooms into its second weekend, it will do so without two of the game's biggest stars. People will still watch, of course—March Madness is much bigger than two players. But it's uncertain whether they will be around for next year's Big Dance.

Which brings us to our question: Should college basketball players leave early?

 

STAY IN SCHOOL

Take the money, right? If the opportunity to earn $507,000 (the NBA league minimum for a drafted rookie next year) is in front of you, take. It.

That's the key word, though: opportunity. Not guarantee, but chance. There is zero certainty as to how long the money will roll in. Or how many ways it will be divided once players start parsing out payments to agents, managers, trainers, assistants and various friends looking for investors in their sure-fire startups.

I know I sound like your grandma, but the value of an education far exceeds $507,000, particularly if you're learning subjects such as economics, finance and business management. After all, that tax bracket pays nearly 40 percent to Uncle Sam. Wouldn't it be nice to know how annuities work?

Let's use Eddy Curry as an example. He went straight from Thornwood High School to the NBA, when the Bulls drafted him fourth overall in 2001. When you're fourth overall, you make a heck of a lot more than the league minimum.

Yet Curry struggled so much financially that in 2009 he asked the N.Y. Knicks for an $8 million advance to pay his debts (he got $2 million), and in 2010 went to court over an unpaid $570,000 personal loan that was racking up 85 percent interest. Who takes out a loan with 85 percent interest? Someone who doesn't know better.

Sure, a guy could decide to stay in school, then tear an ACL and miss out on ever playing pro ball. But chances are good he'll be better off with a degree from Big School U, a legacy as starting point guard for the Fighting U Mascots and fewer people reaching into his pockets.

Courtney Linehan is RedEye's managing editor for content. @courtneylinehan

 

GO TO THE PROS

Allow me to go through the lightning round of excuses people throw out when they don't want college hoops players to leave early.

"They should stay, get a degree and learn how to work": 36 percent of 2013 college grads work in a job that doesn't require a degree right now (that's from CNN). Are you going to tell me that if you were faced with the option of skipping a degree and being paid $54 million over three years versus staying all four years, accumulating large amounts of debt and having to end up moving back home and working a job that has nothing to do with your major or skill, you'd choose the latter? You're lying.

"You learn how to be a team player in college and develop skills": The "team" concept is pure propaganda, set up to appeal to non-elite players in an attempt to line the coffers of your midmajors and whatnot. If not, then why aren't schools selling the jerseys of every player on the team instead of the blue chipper? Also, the best players dominate in college and staying there actually can be a bad thing . If I'm the best 3-point shooter on Earth, then my college coach isn't going to spend the time to develop the rest of my game like an NBA coach would. He'd be content to let me just let it rain from outside. Are you going to learn more running roughshod over players you're obviously better than or sizing up against the elite? (The 2014 76ers notwithstanding.)

"They'll blow the money": This is the faux concern I love the most. Who here took a class about managing money in college? I'm sure there are some, but most of us stay for four years and don't leave school equipped to manage finances better than any of these kids. At least they can afford to have an accountant on retainer.

"They get a scholarship! Get an education!" This one is so myopic it makes me sick. There are thousands of us who attended big schools, got good grades and a degree and still aren't that smart when it's done. Not to mention that schools aren't letting these kids spend time in a lab when they can be getting paid to have them play in a tournament on an aircraft carrier or something dumb. Your alma mater wants money, which is why your Econ 101 class had 12,000 people in it. If you get a good education, that's icing on the cake.

Let's just call this what it is: People who advocate for players to stay in a system where they create revenue for their own financial gain (looking at you, schmucks who bet thousands on March Madness pools) are doing it from a place of privilege and selfishness. If you advocate for players to return to school rather than to hone their trades, then you're advocating that people shouldn't be paid for their work. Just admit that and we can move on. In the meantime, young players? Go get that money.

Ernest Wilkins is Chicago's wingman. @ernestwilkins

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