Campbell Hall alum Jrue Holiday to leave UCLA for NBA

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parimalrohitBY PARIMAL ROHIT

How much a difference 20 years makes.

An urban Cowboy makes a glorious return, while a top blue chip recruit hit the eject button to take the ultimate Holiday. A little more than one week ago, famed UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman returned to UCLA to get his Sociology degree. Leaving without a degree is Jrue Holiday, who decided to hit the eject button a little early in order to earn some cash and take his last name literally.

It was only one year ago that Holiday graduated Campbell Hall and now he's off to the NBA draft.  Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty

It was only one year ago that Holiday graduated Campbell Hall and now he's off to the NBA draft. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty

Flying out of Westwood almost as quickly as he swooped in from North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall, Holiday played but just a few games inside Pauley Pavilion. A top recruit who just arrived to Westwood last September is already gone. One and done, as the kids say nowadays.

Later this week is the NBA Draft, and Holiday has made himself available to be chosen by any of the 30 teams eligible to make a selection. Scouts expect the one time Valley standout to be chosen somewhere between picks 10 and 15. Should he be chosen at some point during the first round, Holiday will be entitled to the standard contract and salary for a player in his position – under current terms, he will be scheduled to earn about $10 million over the next four years.

Certainly, that salary alone is enough to retire, even for Holiday’s ripe age of 19. Should he perform to expectations, he would probably earn several millions more in the form of a second (and maybe third) contract extension. The question, however, is whether Holiday made the right decision to jump ship after spending just one year at UCLA. After all, he clearly envisions achieving superstar status (and claiming its associated wealth) just as Aikman did when he left Westwood 20 years ago.

Okay, Troy Aikman hit the eject button himself back in 1989, when he bypassed completing his degree at UCLA for the greener pastures of the National Football League. Greener those pastures were, as Aikman earned millions of green-colored pieces of paper en route to winning three Super Bowl trophies as the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. But, Aikman was no one-and-done in college.

Then again, who needs a college degree when one can earn Super Bowl trophies, Hall of Fame status millions of dollars and dozens of accolades – all for throwing an oblong-shaped ball several feet forward? Certainly, this is exactly what Holiday is thinking, except he bounces a rounded leather ball on a wooden floor instead of throwing a piece of oblong pigskin in the air. Oh, what would John Wooden say if he were still coaching?

Time will tell if Holiday's choice to leave UCLA for the NBA is shortsighted.  Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty

Time will tell if Holiday's choice to leave UCLA for the NBA is shortsighted. Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty

Unfortunately, Holiday has precedent for thinking this way, thanks to Aikman. After leaving UCLA, all Aikman ever did was toss around that thing we call a pigskin – and he did it well. A retrospective of his professional career, in addition to his Super Bowl victories, includes a Super Bowl MVP award, six Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro selection. Aikman was also named the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 1997, was a Davey O’Brien Award recipient in 1988, and was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After retiring in 2000 with a storied football career in his back pocket, Aikman pursued a career in broadcasting while also developing several business ventures. Now one of the most respected athletes in all American sport, Aikman even owns a professional motor racing team and a minority interest in the San Diego Padres. All this accomplished without a college degree.

Holiday is probably convinced similar fortune is awaiting him as he departs UCLA for the greener pastures of the National Basketball Association. The question is necessarily begged – other than attending the same college, what makes Holiday think he has anything in common with Aikman?

An amateur career that started at Oklahoma in 1984 before transferring to UCLA in 1986, Aikman spent five years in college. Ironically, he left Oklahoma to make way for Jamelle Holieway – note the similarity to Jrue Holiday. In hindsight, Holieway’s career went no where after college.

In two full years at UCLA, Aikman led the Bruins to two bowl championships, defeating Florida in the 1987 Aloha Bowl, then Arkansas in the 1988 Cotton Bowl. The consensus All-American had a record of 20-4, finished as the school’s second-best passer of all-time, and was the first ever Bruin to win the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best quarterback.

In his five-month collegiate basketball career, Holiday finished with per-game averages of 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 45 percent shooting. He completed his career with no accolades, no awards, no achievements, no post-season success. Yet, last week, Holiday officially passed the point of no return, officially declaring for the NBA Draft.

While Holiday hopes to cash in his short-lived collegiate career, he should not expect to have an Aikman-like career. Perhaps he should be focusing on avoiding a Holieway-type career, whose professional career never really took off.

Unlike his years at Campbell Hall, Holiday completed his UCLA career with no accolades, no awards, no achievements, no post-season success.  Photo: Nick Lahan/Getty

Unlike his years at Campbell Hall, Holiday completed his UCLA career with no accolades, no awards, no achievements, no post-season success. Photo: Nick Lahan/Getty

Of course, Holiday does not have to look to Oklahoma to discover a high school standout and star college athlete who never quite made it to the professional level of his chosen sport. A mere inquiry to the UCLA basketball teams of his childhood, the one comprised of players such as Ed O’Bannon and his younger brother Charles. Both players were among the nation’s best in their days at Lakewood Artesia High before leading UCLA to its most recent national title in basketball in 1995. However, neither found the greener pastures they were seeking in the NBA, with both failing to secure a roster spot among the league’s 30 teams after 2000.

Maybe Holiday may end up like another Bruin who had the initials JH – J.R. Henderson. A key member of the 1995 championship team, Henderson actually discovered his greener pastures in the rolling hills and lava-infested mountains of Japan, becoming a premiere basketball player on the eponymous island. Sure, he became a naturalized Japanese citizen and had to change his name to J.R. Sakuragi in the process, but hey, he is making top dollar while playing professional basketball in a technologically advanced country.

Perhaps Holiday will himself change his name and become a naturalized citizen of another country in order to find success on the hardwood. Perhaps Holiday will return to Westwood in 2029 with a storied professional basketball career under his belt.

If not, will anyone remember him 20 years later? For Holiday’s sake, hopefully his memory will not be in the form of the question, “Hey, whatever happened to that kid who led Campbell Hall to three state championships and played a few games at UCLA?”

Parimal Rohit is an avid writer who loves covering politics, sports, entertainment and anything else under the sun.  Currently, he writes for Buzzine Magazine, Campus Circle and India West. In addition to writing full-time, Parimal is also a staff member of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Prior to becoming a journalist, Parimal worked in sports, entertainment and criminal law.  He he is a graduate of UCLA, has a Master’s degree is in Sports Management from the University of San Francisco and a law degree from Loyola Law School.

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