NC State's basketball news has been difficult to process. We understand the professional aspirations of Trevor Lacey, we acknowledge the increased playing time wishes for Kyle Washington, but that doesn't alter the bitter feeling entrenched in the psyche of Wolfpack fans. We're far from alone, however, as State's departures merely reflect the college game as a whole.
For Lacey specifically, his case is somewhat unusual. Most future NBA players don't return for senior years, and even the ones who do often aren't 24-years-old when the season starts. The case may be unusual, but the sentiment fans are left with is far from it. Each early departure leaves the modern college game with teams incomplete, missions unaccomplished, dreams unfulfilled.
Exaggerated speech? Think again, and take Duke as the prime example. How outstanding would the Blue Devils be if Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones stuck around for multiple years? With that National Championship core gone, a title will go undefended, a dynasty won't be built.
The magnitude of this issue is complicated, though. Why shouldn't Lacey maximize his financial upside in the NBA or overseas? Why should Duke's three best players risk injury playing for free when millions of dollars await them at the next level? These are easy questions to answer, ones that are leaving the college game in the dust.
Transfers are playing a major role in college basketball, too. Washington transferring comes in an age where decisions like his are more common than ever. Part of what made NC State's 2014-2015 year special was the presence of two transfers, Lacey and Ralston Turner. They surely upset their Alabama and LSU fan bases to a degree when they departed.
For the Wolfpack faithful, as excited as we were to land Lacey, we only had him for a year. A single year, far too little time to appreciate such a talent. Right when I became used to Turner as our new Scott Wood, he graduated. In comes Terry Henderson, another transfer, and out goes another, one named Washington.
The college game has morphed into a revolving door, a mere platform to perform upon as other eyes watch. What eyes, you ask? Either an NBA dream recruiting you to the next level, or a better college team who could benefit from you transferring. It's like staying four years with a single school is the equivalent of retiring after 30 years with the same job. Excuse my sarcasm, but don't dismiss the truthful undertone.
As NC State fans, we deserved to see Lacey annihilate opponents during the 2015-2016 season. For Lacey personally, he deserves to leave early to pursue his lifelong dream. In other words, we're happy for Lacey, but we're not happy ourselves. And the college game shouldn't be, either, because it currently has a departure problem on its hands that lacks a clear answer.