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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dropouts Hurt College, NBA and Themselves

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes the headlines make you want to scream. "Page To Turn Professional'' said the headline in The Washington Post. You could yell: "No!'' But what surprises us anymore?

Just two weeks ago, Victor Page sat in McDonough Gym and talked warmly about how he wanted to play two more years at Georgetown University.

"I have to work on my whole game,'' he said when asked if he would try to parlay his Big-East-leading 22.7 scoring average into an NBA contract. "I need to stay two more years. Then I'll be ready.''

For 25 years, I've interviewed every prominent GU player as early in his career as possible. I wanted a benchmark. Coach John Thompson, with that deflated basketball in his office, claims his program is about education. The proof should be in the pudding. Four years on the Hilltop ought to make a difference -- a huge difference. And in most cases it has.

Over the years, there have been stunning transformations. As a freshman, Patrick Ewing was so shy he made himself seem monosyllabic. Now, he's an assertive and vocal team leader for the Knicks.

Page, like Allen Iverson a year ago, was making progress. He was on his way, not just toward the NBA, but toward being somebody you wanted to talk to whether or not he played basketball. Now, they've both chosen to go pro -- half-baked, so to speak.

The results hurt everybody. College basketball is badly weakened; marquee stars don't stay long enough to be part of a cohesive senior-led team. The NBA is weakened -- the quality of the league goes down every year -- because its next-generation "legends'' are one-dimensional out-of-control ball hogs or immature stringbeans who develop bad habits to survive.

Everything conspires to prevent a college student from studying. "Wanna shoot some pool, Boz?'' was plenty to pry me away from Anthropology. So, how do you hit the books when the NBA is, figuratively, standing outside your dorm-room door with a blank check?

The NBA has 29 teams. That's 348 jobs. Most of the college dropouts won't make it.

If 100 Victor Pages stayed in school for all four years, they would, as a group, get a better education. They would, as a group, become more socially and physically mature. They'd be better prepared to deal with the psychological pressures and temptations of NBA life. And they'd become better ballplayers, too.

Case by case, each Iverson or Page has every right, and plenty of reason, to drop out.

But, collectively, what is happening to all the Iversons and Pages is an absolutely rotten development. It's got no upside whatsoever. The college game is hurt. The pro game is hurt. And every hoop dropout loses out on education or social skills or emotional maturity or all three.

In the past 25 years, I've never met a Georgetown player who could use four years of college and four years of college basketball more than Victor Page. And he was making fine progress.

Not any more.

The next time you hear "I Love This Game,'' try not to gag.