Cory Joseph and March Madness
In a perfect world Cory Joseph would have spent most of this year in Austin, receiving a first class education and preparing for his post-college profession.
Not at the University of Texas, mind you, but with the Austin Toros in the NBA Development League.
But with a series of injuries that would eventually end the playing career of San Antonio Spurs backup point guard T.J. Ford, Joseph was trapped for most of the season in basketball limbo; which apparently exists somewhere on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich likes to say that Joseph has handled the situation well for a sophomore in college, which is where some people believe Cory Joseph should still be.
March Madness is now over, and that ending brings the same life altering decision for its participants as Joseph faced a year ago.
But in some ways, the madness is only beginning. After all, there is the sanctity of college basketball to consider when judging these young athletes for their personal choices.
With Kentucky’s victory we can at long last celebrate the legitimacy of the one and done in college basketball, and there will be those that are resentful for it.
“Calipari has professionalized college sports, which is great for him and good for his recruits. It’s just discomforting for anyone who likes NCAA basketball, assuming they’re drawn to the same game that lives within their memory. He’s built awesome teams for seven consecutive seasons, usually by overhauling his entire roster with transitory superstars who are only attending college because there’s no reasonable alternative. He’s completely up-front about this strategy, and it’s irrefutably effective.
— “Kentucky’s Death March” by Chuck Klosterman, via Grantland
College exists, hypothetically, to prepare students for their future careers. The NCAA is no longer an ideal developmental ground for future basketball players, and the reasons are twofold.
The NCAA as a Business
First, the NCAA has lost all credibility as an institution with its students’ best interests at heart. It is first, foremost, and lastly a business with its eye on the bottom line. It exists to maximize its profits. It does so by maintaining an unpaid workforce that has few alternative options. It would like to keep these unpaid employees around longer so that it may return to putting a quality (in terms of basketball) product on the floor.
Doing so under the guise of an educational institution is a joke.
It’s not unheard of for college students, even those on scholarship, to reach out to prospective employers in hopes of gathering information and gauging interest. In fact, most universities have a career center to encourage such communication.
Yet every year there is one subset of students colleges intentionally subvert from fully exploring their career options. Per new NCAA deadlines, potential draft prospects must now make their decision by April 10, eliminating opportunities to workout with NBA teams and gather information about their draft stock.
“The NCAA has accomplished one preposterous goal: it has denied athletes the chance to work out for NBA teams without surrendering their eligibility. Now, due to the realignment of the NCAA’s deadlines, players must declare their intent to enter the draft before they’re able to work out for (or thereby receive any workout-related feedback from) NBA teams. It’s a spoil the NCAA has taken merely because it can—from a body of athletes who have no real means of representation against a system that laughably claims to have their best interests at heart.”
-Rob Mahoney, Bleacher Report
College basketball players receive scholarships based on a particular skill set not necessarily attributed to their academics, but then, so are artists, musicians, etc., and unless I’m mistaken, those students are free from the restrictions placed upon basketball players.
Again, college basketball is a business. And while it’s successful, an increase in competition (the NBA, its Development League, Overseas, etc.) for its employees—from sources that actually pay their employees—has greatly diluted the quality of its product.
Cory Joseph’s Internship
Would Cory Joseph have been better served staying another year in college? Given the diluted quality of the game, there is a ceiling on how much you can learn from the college game. There are better options available now.
It’s difficult to imagine what Joseph could learn from a game that, in one instance late in its’ showcase tournament, featured a team whose best offensive strategy was a fast break dunk or to throw the ball in the rim’s general direction and hope a teammate could tip in the rebound. Sadly, this isn’t an aberration in the college game.
In the brief glimpses of his rookie season, Joseph proved to be unprepared for the NBA. He did little to even offer a glimpse of a skill set that may someday be useful. But he got the Spurs to give him a guaranteed contract. A paid internship, if you will.
With the Toros, Joseph is not being tasked with winning games to make his coach and school money. His sole purpose is to develop the skills that will make him a long term NBA player. The Spurs, having longer than the next year or two in mind, are invested in his growth.
In a deeper draft, Joseph would have been guaranteed nothing.
Working with the Austin Toros, gaining on the job training in the Spurs system, even if Joseph develops into little more than a fringe player he still retains some NBA value simply for having worked in the Spurs system. That alone could be the difference between keeping an NBA job and going overseas.
And no matter the outcome, he’s likely learned more than he ever could while making money for NCAA executives.