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Welcome to the one and done era of Cal basketball

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Or, if you prefer, the two and through era of Cal basketball?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

According to Wikipedia, 48 underclassmen have declared for this year's NBA draft. 14 of those players were freshmen. 13 of those 14 declared freshmen were ranked in the top 15 of Scout's recruiting rankings. That rate of attrition is bit higher than the normal year, but also not unusual. Only one player in Scout's 2013 top 10 is still in college two years later.

And now Cal will be bringing in two players universally regarded as top 10 recruits - and by many as top 5 recruits! Jaylen Brown has discussed his potential interest in staying for two years. Maybe Ivan Rabb will be happy in Berkeley, living close to home, to stay more than one year. If either of them stay at Cal more than a year I will be mildly surprised. If either of them are in Berkeley more than two years I'll be in shock.

This all needs to be said, because this isn't a common occurrence for Cal. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamal Sampson are the only two players to declare for the NBA draft after one season. You can add Ryan Anderson and Jason Kidd to the list of two-and-through players in Cal history. That's four early departures from underclassmen in the last 21 years - about one every five years. Suddenly Cal has two on the roster, and nearly had a third.

Brown and Rabb are obviously extremely talented, and both players will likely be lottery picks if they declare almost regardless of what happens on the court next year - precisely because they are so talented. A quick google search netted multiple mocks listing both players in the top 10 of the 2016 NBA draft. As much as I loved my college experience, I'd have dropped out in a hot second if I were guaranteed a multi-million dollar salary, because I'm a rational human.

Everything you've read so far sounds like a set-up for a gigantic concern troll post. This isn't that. True, it's possible to get to the Final Four without recruiting one and done players. But it's hard. Finding a group of 6-8 players talented enough to win games but not talented enough to be lottery picks (or, for whatever reason, oddly willing to stay in school for 3-4 years) is a very narrow sweet spot.

Hell, it's hard to win the conference without these types of players. In 2012, Tony Wroten led Washington to the top (but not the NCAAs!) in a crummy conference. In 2013, Shabazz Muhammad carried UCLA to a conference title. In 2014, it was Aaron Gordon at Arizona, and in 2015 he was replaced in Tucson by Stanley Johnson. True, every once in a while there will be seasons like 2010, when UCLA and Arizona are both in relative disarray and a group of seniors can sneak in and win the conference at 13-5. But that's not a very high probability strategy, and it's become increasingly rarer across the nation.

Of course, I probably don't need to convince you that there's a pretty high correlation between getting early-entrant prospects and winning basketball games. No, the concern comes from the supposed moral implications of playing the one-and-done game. And considering many here likely remember the shame of the Todd Bozeman affair, I can understand a bit of reticence.

But it's a false dichotomy that one-and-done recruiting equals dirty recruiting, and it perplexes me that so many equate early entrant players with moral decay of one kind or another. What exactly is inherently dirty or morally wrong about it?

I suppose one could have concerns about recruiting violations. But recruiting violations are hardly confined to one-and-done players. Just ask St. Mary's.

I suppose Cal could recruit a player with zero interest in school and see them leave early . . . which would make them the same as any other recruited player who doesn't care about school, except talented enough to be picked in the NBA draft. I doubt there's any meaningful correlation between 'talented enough to leave early for the draft' and 'is or is not a good human being that gives us the warm fuzzies when he represents our school.'

I suppose you could dislike the one-and-done era from an aesthetic perspective. One thing I love about women's basketball is that players almost universally stay for four years, which means you get to watch players develop over four seasons. You get to know their personality, and watch as they add elements to their game. But I have no interest in handicapping Cuonzo Martin and Cal's chances for success at the hands of an aesthetic ideal.

I suppose you could dislike the fact that one-and-done recruiting so starkly indicates how anachronistic the phrase student-athlete has become . . . in which case you're probably going to have to give up watching revenue sports until the NCAA bans scholarships and TV contracts, because that ship sailed decades ago.

No, if you have a problem with the one-and-done era, than send your complaints to the NBA, who created the age restriction in the first place, thus forcing obviously pro-ready players like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis to play in college for a year. It's silly to blame the players for playing a year in college, because the only other choice is to leave the country and play overseas, hardly a fair expectation. It's silly to blame the universities, unless you also have a problem with an engineering whiz dropping out because he invented a great new product as a sophomore.

As for Cal? Cuonzo Martin and the Bears have the obligation to do what they can to recruit (within NCAA rules!) athletes who will positively represent Cal for as long as they are on campus, whether that's for one year or four. They will have to do right by them by emphasizing academic achievement and providing academic support, and by developing players as athletes and people so that when it's time to leave, they are ready.

In other words, the same obligation they have to any other player recruited into the program. Cuonzo Martin can succeed or fail in that obligation with any type of player, one-and-done or otherwise.

He's also responsible for winning games in Berkeley, and it very much looks like he's bringing in the players that will allow him to do so. Now we can turn to the fun part - months of speculation about what next year's team will look like on the court.