With the madness of March still in full swing as the men’s and women’s Final Four competitions set to get under way this weekend, discussions of the transition from college to the pros are heating up. Fortunately for those paying attention to the women’s game, former college basketball star and WNBA legend Tamika Catchings has been in the middle of the coverage, providing insight that only a player of her caliber can. So if you’re as frustrated with the problem of the NBA and men’s college basketball, allow Catchings to enlighten you…and make you a bigger fan of the women’s game.
Specifically, the NBA’s one-and-done rule has absolutely demolished the league and the college basketball landscape, and while it has made March madder than ever, the two levels of basketball as wholes have suffered. Meanwhile, the women’s game has continued to improve in both quality and popularity because of the long-term approach taken.
“From a maturity level, more than anything, if you give an 18- or 19-year-old a million dollars and then watch them crash and burn, you might say you don’t feel sorry for them because they made so much money. But me personally, from four years of college, I learned so much about myself and life outside of basketball. You know, things like time management and being a leader and following rules. I learned a lot through college that most guys who are only going to be there for one year— how much are you going to really learn that you could really take away?”
Catchings went on to say the fact female players can’t enter the WNBA for four years allows them an opportunity without pressure to get a degree or even play overseas and then come back to get a degree and/or play in the WNBA. Regardless, it prevents the high number of draft busts the NBA experiences year after year when players who aren’t prepared mentally or physically to play at the next level declare as surefire lottery picks.
It was hard not to just constantly applaud Catchings while she spoke because the WNBA and women’s college basketball have a great system that doesn’t put pressure on star players to skip their education and take millions of dollars right away. Some folks call that crazy, but the women’s game is taking a long-term approach that not only prevents such a high number of draft busts, but also players going bankrupt shortly after retiring from the game.
Like she said, four years of college better prepared her for life in general, which is why she will undoubtedly be just as successful off the court once she retires from the WNBA. If more male players were essentially forced to get their education and learn more about themselves, as she put it, then maybe fewer of them would flame out in the NBA because of off-the-court issues and fewer of them would end up broke shortly after retirement.
Positive off-the-court behavior can obviously have a solid impact on the life of player, regardless of age or experience. Catchings embodies that with her involvement in events like the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, which includes two outstanding young women who have gone above and beyond off the court. Courtney Moses of Purdue took several of her teammates to South Africa and co-founded two community service groups: the Boiler-Maker-Wish and the IMPACT mention program. Likewise, Worcester State University’s Michel’le St. Pierre has been active in the Army National Guard for five natural disasters, including the Boston Marathon bombing.
These girls are just two of many examples of young female players who are already prepared for life after basketball. The women’s game doesn’t get enough credit but as Catchings pointed out, the girls are doing things right. Put simply, the boys should take notice so more of them can actually become men.