Mac Engel

TCU basketball stars illustrate a big problem with college basketball

TCU basketball players Jaylen Fisher (L), Desmond Bane (center) and Kouat Noi (right) all applied for early entry into the NBA Draft. None of the players were invited to the NBA Combine.
TCU basketball players Jaylen Fisher (L), Desmond Bane (center) and Kouat Noi (right) all applied for early entry into the NBA Draft. None of the players were invited to the NBA Combine. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Three TCU basketball players made themselves available for the NBA Draft when, instead, they should aim to play for four years in college and earn their degree.

This is not some old-guy rant about college kids, but rather the product of having watched too many college players give up their youth to chase ball because they have no idea just how hard it is what they are trying to do.

As much as I like TCU players Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi, both guards are kidding themselves if they think they are going to be drafted. Or land a spot on an NBA roster next season.

The same goes for former TCU guard Jaylen Fisher, who left the team in January.

All three players announced their respective intentions to turn pro, although Bane nor Fisher hired an agent, which keeps their options open to possibly return to college ball. Noi is all in on playing ball.

That these guys are coming out now illustrates just how busted the state of college basketball is. We don’t even need an FBI wiretap and the feds to expose some of these problems.

There are 60 spots in the NBA draft. Sixty. There are 233 players who applied for early entry into the 2019 NBA Draft, which includes a record 58 players from the international level. This does not even include college seniors who are eligible to be selected.

The problem is the problem: Too many college basketball players are sure they are going to be young forever, and they can play in the NBA. Too many players are surrounded by “influencers” who give them false expectations about actually playing in the NBA.

Take a look at NBA draft classes where there are too many examples to list all the great college players that never made it. Because making it in that league is difficult in a way that is unfathomable to a 19-year-old.

Bane, Noi and Fisher could not score an invite to the NBA Draft Combine, which is basically a pointless exercise for the NBA’s in-house TV network. The “event” is ongoing, from May 15 to 19, in Chicago.

Instead, the three TCU players were “invited” to the 2019 Professional Basketball Combine, May 21 to 22 at the Mamba Sports Academy in California.

Behind Kurt Thomas, the second-best player TCU has ever produced is Kenrich Williams, and he went undrafted last year. He became a starter with the New Orleans Pelicans this season.

Bane, Noi nor Fisher is as good as Kenrich Williams. Expect Bane and Fisher to be told by NBA teams that neither will be drafted, and will be handed a long list of areas to improve. Bane is a nice college player and a good shooter, who must demonstrate he can create his own shot, at least. He must drive the ball; he averaged only two free throw attempts per game last season.

Expect him to return to TCU.

Noi has an NBA frame but is far too streaky to be considered a good potential NBA shooter; he looks to be a G League or overseas player right now. He sounds like a guy who simply does not want to be in college.

After leaving the team in January, Fisher finished the semester academically at TCU. A few power college programs called him almost immediately after he left the team, most notably Clemson, which was ready to offer him a spot. Fisher’s priority should be to demonstrate he is healthy after multiple knee surgeries.

Before he suffered his TCU-career ending injuries, he had become a proficient 3-point shooter, but his ability to penetrate was gone. Then he needs to find a four-year program and improve his game.

What awaits these guys is not NBA minutes bur rather a trip to the individual world of the NBA G League, or the endless journey of playing ball overseas.

A player can play for a long time, and make good money, if he finds the right team in a foreign land. Playing ball overseas can enrich a guy in ways he cannot possibly quantify, if he has the patience, and tolerance, for some of the problems that are inherit to international ball.

Each kid has the right to make his own decision, and that’s what Bane, Noi and Fisher have done. Like any of these guys who made a similar decision, it’s their life. Be it Bane, Fisher or the rest has a clue just how difficult this jump is, and what they are potentially leaving.

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