Florida coach Billy Donovan says it's likely more players will see leaving college early to play overseas as a viable option
While the decision of former Florida guard Nick Calathes to sign with a Greek professional team may have surprised many, Florida coach Billy Donovan believes Calathes may be part of a growing trend in the near future.
Calathes annunced at the end of the Gators' season that he was entering his name in the NBA Draft, but would not sign with an agent - leaving open the possibility of returning for his junior season. But two weeks ago, he decided to go overseas to play ball. He joins Clemson sophomore Terrence Oglesby, who gave up his final two years of eligibility to play in Europe. High school star Jeremy Tyler is skipping his senior year of high school to play professionally overseas, and former Arizona commit Brandon Jennings chose to go play in Itally instead of enroling at Arizona.
Donovan isn't surprised, and said fans should expect more players to go that route in the future.
"I actually had a player, Christian Drejer, who left in the middle of the year,'' Donovan said. " Here's the thing: our sport is totally different than any other sport that's being played. There is more opportunity to make money in the game of basketball around the world. You can have kids go to Japan, they can go to Greece, they can go to the Philippines, they can go to Russia. You can go anywhere in the world and you can play and make a living. And I think for a lot of these kids, they are getting a chance to do something they love.''
Donovan, a graduate of Providence College who played four years of collegiate basketball, said he understands the concerns about players leaving early without obtaining a college degree, but said the chance to make a living may outweigh the desire to remain and earn a degree immediately for many players.
"What's happened in a lot of respects is that a degree immediately is getting devalued,'' he said. "And what I mean by that is here's a kid that's 19, 20 or 21 years old. I've got about a seven or eight-year window to try and make some money. I couldn't make this type of money if I had my degree. Let me play, and you know what, I've gone to two years of college, when I'm 29 or 30, I'll go back to college and finish up my degree and use it then. I think the times are changing from that perspective. The way the economy is now, I think kids are looking at as 'If I get my degree, I've got to start off at an entry level position and make $25,000, $30,000 or $35,000'. Or I've got a chance to go overseas and make $250,000, $300, 000 $400,00 or half a million? And I'm getting a chance to do something I want to do? That's a no-brainer. So I think you're having a lot of kids making these type of business decisions a lot earlier, and it's trickled down to high school where a guy is giving up his senior year.''