By Ben Darnell
On a cold mid-March night in Ann Arbor, MI, Wolverine basketball big man Mitch McGary was relaxing with some friends after a disappointing loss to rival Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. McGary had to be upset, State won the game by 14 and out-rebounded Michigan by 10. It was more disheartening for McGary because he was recovering from back surgery and unable to play. While hanging out drinking some brewdogs, one of his friends asked him to take a hit of marijuana. Little did he know, it would put him in the 2014 NBA draft.
Several days later, the NCAA randomly selected McGary to be drug tested. At this time, Michigan was in the NCAA tournament and susceptible to testing for banned substances such as marijuana. McGary tested positive for THC and was ruled ineligible for his entire junior year.
Suspension for a full year is beyond absurd. McGary had not played in a collegiate basketball game since December 14, 2013. He contemplated going to the NBA draft after his freshman season. Being out most of this year at Michigan was keeping him enrolled for another season to raise his draft stock. The NCAA's ruling changed McGary's plans.
Michigan, the state not the university, has made great strides towards legalization. They currently allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate. In fact, McGary could have applied for a medical prescription to assist in the recovery from his back surgery. There are plenty of dispensaries in Ann Arbor for him to use. Before applying for your Michigan Medical Marihuana Card (for some reason they spell it with an "H" there), remember the NCAA has made its stance known on marihuana.
Is this year-long suspension a precedent that everyone should expect from now on? If that is the case, expect to see even more college basketball players leave for the NBA draft as soon as possible. By the way, Colorado State guard, former Louisville Cardinal Chane Behanan, declared for the draft. He got busted with pot again!
Behanan and McGary are not ready for the NBA. Sixty jobs are available. Fifty or more graduating seniors and 30 or so international players will be waiting for the NBA GM to call them on draft day. About five guys from the NBA D-League will be listening for that ring too. Approximately 45 college players will leave early this year, and Behanan and McGary will be among them.
Both Behanan and McGary would benefit from another year of college experience -- experience on the basketball court and experience in life. Coaches and athletic departments should set their own team rules about marijuana, not the NCAA. The athletic governing body should only be testing for performance-enhancing drugs and not be in the business of passing marijuana sentencing. Michiganders know it's illegal to recreationally use marijuana, they also know you are suppose to be 21 years old to drink alcohol. If a 20-year-old gets caught drinking, are they done for a year? Let the schools decide, that's why their athletic departments get paid the big bucks.
Unlike Behanan, police did not arrest McGary for smoking. He simply hit the chronic that was passed to him at a private party. Some would say that is just being polite. The NCAA came down hard on McGary, an unpaid student-athlete. Not only will the NBA have a more lenient marijuana policy, they will also pay McGary to play. Boy, the NCAA sure taught that young man a lesson.