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It's time for Oden to spread his wings

On Sports

All over the country, they're writing about how Ohio State center Greg Oden ought to stay in college at least one more year. That he needs another year of improvement at that level. That it's better for college basketball, better for the NBA and just, well, better for everyone.

Except Oden, of course.

The problem with that argument isn't just that Oden possibly could suffer a career-ending injury next season and deprive himself of the millions of dollars he's going to make in the NBA. That's not very likely to happen. What makes the idea of Oden hanging around college another season so wrong is the concept that it would make him a better player.

That's flat-out nonsense, perpetuated by people who worship at the shrine of Dick Vitale. The people who think college coaches spend a lot of time working individually with players, rather than recruiting, schmoozing alumni and trying to figure out where their next job is going to be.

Truth is, for players as big and talented as Oden, the best thing they can do for individual improvement is get to the NBA as quickly as possible - where there are no restrictions on practice and workout time, and where the best development coaches in the world work.

Oden will get more practice time against other people his size, more attention from coaches, more games and more high-caliber competition in two months in the NBA than he'd get in the next two seasons at Ohio State.

And, oh yeah, it's nice to know, too, that instead of allowing a university to make millions off his play, he'll get a cut of the action. The earlier a big-time player starts his career, the more it pays off at the end of the line in free-agency dollars.

Many players, though, should not come to the NBA too soon. If you aren't talented enough to play right away, college might be better - certainly for your confidence level. You look at Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw and wonder what a couple of seasons being a star in college would have done for their mental approach.

On the other hand, I'm glad they could make up their own minds. It's silly to think people who don't want to attend college and who don't belong in college should be forced into it just to earn the right to dribble a basketball for a living.

I've never understood why golfers, tennis players and baseball players are allowed to play professionally out of high school - or earlier - and basketball players are not.

Many people watched Oden in the Final Four and saw a kid not ready for the NBA.

Funny. I saw a player who was almost too physically gifted for the college game. A lot of referees seem big-man biased, calling fouls on him every time a defender flops. Teammates, anxious to do their own thing, often miss chances to get him the ball. And really, there aren't enough good big men for him to play against.

Go, Greg. Get to the next level, where you belong. Go play with the big boys.

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