Originally created 06/29/01

NBA's high school draftees worries Hall of Famer Thompson



BALTIMORE -- John Thompson said Thursday that the latest NBA draft sent a negative message about the importance of education and was "a frightening sign of things to come."

A day after three high schoolers were among the first four picks in the draft, Thompson said the impact would be widespread, particularly among minorities and the poor.

"If we get to the point where we start condoning kids going pro, that will have an enormous impact on people who are not in athletics," the former Georgetown coach said at the annual convention of The Associated Press Sports Editors.

In recent weeks, the Hall of Fame coach has called on the NBA to adopt an age minimum of 20 to give players an opportunity to reach emotional maturity before bestowing them with multimillion-dollar contracts.

"A kid can drive a car when he's 13 years old, but we don't permit him to do that," Thompson said.

On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards made Kwame Brown the first prep star to be the No. 1 draft pick. Four high schoolers were among the top eight selections.

Thompson also took issue with a report released Tuesday by The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which recommended that colleges graduate at least half the students who play each sport or be barred from postseason games.

Thompson - whose teams had a 97 percent graduation rate among four-year players - described the suggestions as unrealistic. The commission didn't address how the colleges feel about the enormous amounts of money generated for them by athletics, Thompson said.

"Whether we like it or not, you don't hear them talking about that," the former Hoya coach said.

If college athletic programs were adversely affected by the proposal, poor kids who grew up without educational backgrounds also may lose one of their few opportunities to better themselves.

He conceded that the conflict between athletics and education is in a "semi-crisis" that needs monitoring, but he said the Knight Foundation's suggestions are too severe.