Hoop dreams

Gophers forward Rick Rickert is going pro. Like many young basketball stars, Rickert has decided to forgo remaining years of college eligibility and enter the NBA draft to chase his dream.

“Ever since I was a kid I just had this dream of playing in the NBA,” said Rickert, a Duluth, Minn., native. “Now I have a chance to pursue this dream and fulfill it. It’s a great opportunity and I want this challenge.”

As he departs, Rickert will become yet another player to leave the program early to enter the NBA Draft – the second in four years. Monticello, Minn., native Joel Przybilla left in 2000 with six games to play in his sophomore season.

It’s a common phenomenon in high-profile college sports: players leaving school early without degrees. But with promises of heightened fame, shoe commercials and multimillion dollar contracts, who can blame them?

Some are nostalgic for the days when players finished out their college careers, leaving campus with degree in tow. They long for simpler times when major sports were mainly about teamwork and competition, not money and celebrity. To an extent, those values endure. But to assume players enter college purely for the love of the game and their school is naive.

For stars such as Rickert, college is a training ground. Quite likely the touted recruit came to Minnesota with his eyes already focused on entering the draft. A couple years of Big Ten ball would help him earn a higher spot in the draft, possibly a lottery pick, and when the time was right, he would leave. In two years, Rickert has proven his skills, leading the Gophers this year in scoring and rebounding.

Rickert will now test those skills in the NBA. We wish him luck.