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Mitch McGary’s options: Accept one-year NCAA marijuana suspension or declare for NBA draft. What do you think he did?

Apr 25, 2014, 10:04 AM EDT

I will never criticize college players for turning pro, and this is why.

Far too much analysis focuses on whether players will be a first-round pick and get a guaranteed contracts, and while that should be a factor, it becomes the factor because it’s something we can evaluate from afar. That’s not a good reason to criticize an unlikely first rounder for entering the NBA draft.

We just can’t know everything happening in players’ lives, and there are so many elements to the decision. How are their grades? How much do they enjoy campus life? How much do they and their family need the money?

Are they facing a year-long suspension for a draconian NCAA policy?

In the case of Mitch McGary, the answer to that question is yes, and he will enter the 2014 NBA draft.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports broke the news and wrote an incredibly detailed story, speaking to McGary, who admitted failing a single marijuana test that resulted in a one-year suspension:

One night in mid-March, with the NCAA tournament about to begin without him, McGary was hanging out with a group of friends at Michigan. He had a few drinks. Someone offered some marijuana – a common occurrence, he said, on campus.

“I always turned it down,” McGary told Yahoo Sports. “But that night I didn’t.”

McGary, who hadn’t played since December, was suspended by the NCAA for the entire 2014-15 season after failing an NCAA test.

The rules are confusing, arbitrary and misguided. Had he failed an NCAA test anytime after Aug. 1, he would have been suspended a half season instead of a full one. Had he failed a Michigan test instead of an NCAA test, he would have been suspended three games.

Apparently, the wickedness of smoking pot depends on the exact date you do it and who catches you.

And that’s not to mention the elephant in the room: Should there even be a penalty at all? Ann Arbor has decriminalized marijuana, and McGary was out injured. Larry Sanders has made the case for medical marijuana, and it’s plausible to see how it could have benefited McGary, who was suffering from a back injury and the mental anguish of not playing. Wetzel:

The Chesterton, Ind., native could’ve just turned pro and not mentioned the failed drug test publicly or privately. It stands to reason other players have done just that.

Instead, McGary believed being honest would be best for himself, his family, the Michigan program and his pro future, where he won’t have to worry about news leaking out and NBA teams believing he was hiding something.

While he doesn’t agree with the length of the NCAA’s punishment, he wants to be clear he isn’t blaming anyone but himself. He sat across a table here Thursday seeking a chance to give an explanation, not an excuse.

“I was just really stressed out,” he said of the frustration of not being able to play. “I was at a bad point, just coming off back surgery. I just wasn’t really thinking it through. I have definitely learned from it.

“I am just disappointed in myself overall because this is not me, this is not who I am overall.”

I really recommend you read Wetzel’s full article, as it gives the near-complete look at McGary’s decision we rarely see. Context is everything, and Wetzel provides a stunning amount.

Last year, McGary could have been a lottery pick and had probably played himself into a first-round lock. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound power forward/center is nimble for his size, possesses excellent touch, doesn’t shy from contact and plays with non-stop energy.

In six 2013 NCAA tournament games, McGary averaged 14.3 points on 68 percent shooting, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. When Michigan needed his passing against Syracuse’s zone defense in the Final Four, he even had six assists.

Maybe he got hot at just the right moment. I saw a player who improved throughout the season and continued to do so until the moment it concluded.

Instead of parlaying that success into an NBA contract, McGary returned to Michigan. He suffered a back injury, had surgery and missed most of the entire season. Then, he got hit with this marijuana suspension. He will, and should, face questions from NBA teams about drug use. So far, he’s answered them all splendidly, and if he continues to do so, he shouldn’t fall in the draft.

But he’ll also turn 22 before the draft. He hasn’t played in months, and back injuries are always concerning. See Joel Embiid.

McGary is most-likely a high second-round pick, and though there’s plenty of leeway for him to move either direction from that projection, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he works himself into the late first round. Still, it’s unlikely McGary gets drafted higher than he would have last year.

Just as I won’t criticize players for turning pro, I won’t criticize players for staying in college. If they want to extend that experience, more power to them.

I just hope they do so with a full understanding of how the process works, and this case serves as a valuable teaching point. The longer you hang around school, the more opportunities the NCAA has to do you wrong.

  1. officialgame - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Cry me a river. He screwed up and has to deal with consequences of his actions.

    • doctorofsmuganomics - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      How DARE you go against popular opinion

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM

      I think you missed the point of the article. No one is saying that he doesn’t deserve the punishment, he did the “crime” and he admitted it. However, where it becomase insanely stupid is the differences of the length of punishment depending on when he was caught and who caught him (Michigan or NCAA). That’s the problem. Frankly, I can’t wait until this country grows up and decriminalizes marijuana once and for all. Let’s face it, it’s not harsh drug, it has many benefits, and it’s safer than alcohol (which is legal and widely popular).

      • calkinsrob - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:59 AM

        I remember one of my business law professors used to say a big reason why its illegal is because you cant enforce a legal limit in regards to driving under the influence. You have a breathalyzer for alcohol but i don’t think there’s a way to check how high a driver is. Is there? That’s why its scary.

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        There are blood tests that can be administered, but the catch with those is if someone smoked on Saturday, and they were tested Monday, the TCH would still be in their system, even though they are clearly not under the influence.

      • TheMorningStar - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        Your business professor was wrong…they can absolutely test for marijuana intoxication.

        Sounds like he had an agenda to push.

      • calkinsrob - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        you can test and find out within minutes? instant drug tests? thats a thing? lol

      • imnotyourbuddyguy - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Your professor was full of crap.

        Marijuana was made illegal before impaired driving was regulated across the USA. Hell the Breathalyzer wasn’t invented until the 50’s, and certainly were not used nation wide until the 80’s. No drinking and driving law pre-50’s had anything stating what exactly is drunk driving, as there was no blood/alcohol limit written into the laws to even say who was drunk.

        Marijuana is illegal because it threatened profits of rich American’s, most of it was coming from Mexico back in the day.

        That and rich people who were invested in timber began a smear camping against everything hemp. Hemp had so many uses and the rich fat cats used the media they owned and their political friends to demonize poor sweet Mary Jane

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        Our own Constitution was written on hemp paper…. Good points and I totally agree!

      • calkinsrob - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        I just said it was one big reason. what youve described could easily be a reason too. Im not your guy friend!

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Come on, calkinsrob, we’re all friends here!

      • bgarrityirb - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:45 PM

        im not your friend, buddy!

      • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        Ok, buddy!

  2. money2long - Apr 25, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    This is the equivalent of a criminal crossing to the Mexican borders

  3. asimonetti88 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    A year long suspension for smoking pot? Isn’t this 2014? This sounds like something out of Reefer Madness.

    • bucrightoff - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:25 AM

      He might as well have taken PEDs cause the suspension would be the same or even less. It’s ok for these leagues to come into the 21st century if they’d like.

  4. gomybirdsgo - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    Sorry kid, while its true you could replace those addictive opiate pills with a little bit of pot but then the big pharma companies wouldn’t be able to make as much money. And we all know it is much more important for Merck and johnson and johnson to make billions in profit than it is the health of the people of this country.

    We are all facists now!

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Amen! It’s all about the money. But some politician will see how Colorado will make $98 million in taxes in just one year – they’ll do the math and expand that by 49 other states – and legalize this stuff!!

    • azarkhan - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Grow up.

  5. tyler200829 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    The stigma against weed continues. A plant that helps you relax is still illegal in most states. What a shame.

    • calkinsrob - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      lol thats a stretch to say it just helps you relax. are you high right now? booze help people relax too, oh and kill people while driving.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Apr 25, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        As if you needed to prove to anyone you have no idea what you’re talking about. If “it’s a stretch” that one smokes weed to relax, then what does one do when one smokes weed?

        I’m going to break it to you: The only reason to smoke pot, is to relax.

        I’d suggest you going back to school, but it’s obvious your college professors taught you nothing.

  6. Gordon - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    His decision to head to the pros is the right one, given his circumstances.

    Having said that, if you believe he got caught after the one and only time he ever smoked pot, them I’ve got a bridge in NYC to sell you.

  7. magicfanintn - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    “The mental anguish of not playing…”????
    Lol. You sound like his defense lawyer. I don’t want to make too little of the difficulty of dealing with an injury as a 19 or 20-year-old, but stress is not an excuse to avoid the consequences of doing something you know (or should know) ahead of time is against the rules you live under.

  8. dolphindubs - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    “because I got high…because I got high…because I got hiiiiiiiiigh…”

  9. sportsfan18 - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Draconian penalty?

    Uh, it’s illegal.

    I wish the NBA would hand out year long suspensions for using pot…

    • mortalkondek - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Not in Ann Arbor is is not.

    • atahualpaoxford - Apr 25, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      They would run out of players if they did….

    • fanofthegame79 - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:14 PM


    • bgarrityirb - Apr 25, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      Yes draconian, read it again. had he been caught prior to the start of the season, it would have been a half year suspension, but because he was caught near/at the end of the season it is a full year.

      Same penalty but two different punishments??? It’s a bunch of BS.

  10. addict2sport - Apr 25, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Regardless of the stigma against weed or how unfair the punishment might be, smoking it is against the rules. He knew the rules along with the consequences and he blatantly broke them.

  11. lj312chicago - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    ;( Awwww he smoked a little weed… go do background checks….on the last 3 presidents of the u.s.a…..get over it

  12. 00maltliquor - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    If weed smokers only united and fought as hard to push their agenda like the LGBT community we wouldn’t even be talking about this right now. Heck, he might even be considered a top 100 most influential person and his personal choices would be accepted and applauded. Weed smokers stand up and fight for your right! Stop the oppression!

  13. mrnoshoes - Apr 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    That’s not the way weed tests work, unless he got tested the next day he wouldn’t fail for smoking one time. Weed only lasts in your system for up to a month if you smoke every day. McGary to the Blazers.

  14. crillbill - Apr 25, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Isn’t this pretty much same as Terrell Pryor? Shouldn’t he serve his suspension at the next level?

  15. dolphindubs - Apr 25, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    He’s not your buddy guy!!

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