High Point, NC -- With more college basketball players entering the NBA draft at an earlier age, is it in the best interest of the students?
Last week, three Tar Heel basketball players, sophomores Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall, and junior John Henson all declared for the NBA draft.
Bottom line, money talks.
Even a former professional basketball player said, standouts who stay in college more than one or two years get penalized.
"The NBA is looking for younger talent, kids who can run and jump. I'm not saying that all the kids are ready, but from a business standpoint, you have to go when you're hot," said Keith Gatlin.
Gatlin, who coaches boys varsity basketball at High Point Wesleyan, was a college standout himself.
After spending four years in a Maryland Terrapins jersey, Gatlin played for the Milwaukee Bucks. A torn ACL sent his career overseas.
Gatlin said that's the first reason players have to cash in when they can.
"An injury decreases your market value," he said.
A college injury could potentially cost a young player their multi-million dollar career. Gatlin said the same goes for one bad season.
He said if a player could be a first round pick, they've got to go when they're on top.
However, just like Gatlin tells his players, some who have a bright future on the hardwood, even with lots of blood, sweat and tears, players have to have a plan "B".
"If you don't have an exit strategy, you're going to lose in playing sports. Because you're only one jump away from tearing your knee, or a football play away from losing your career," he said.
Gatlin says the game is different than it was just a couple decades ago.
He says kids play year-round. They focus on one sport and they're groomed for the pros at an earlier age.
He added that as long as other sports are recruiting young athletes, professional basketball isn't going to change either.
"Baseball players leave high school and go straight to the farm clubs, sign a big signing bonus. Golfers turn pro. You had the soccer guy Freddy Adu turn pro at 12 or 13 years old, so the basketball family is saying, well if you didn't stop them, you can't stop us," Gatlin said.
Gatlin said the downside to all of this is the players who aren't first-round picks, who put their name in the draft anyway. They lose great education.
News 2's Lauren Melvin asked Gatlin if the solution is to pay college athletes.
"It wouldn't hurt," he said.
WFMY News 2