Every student-athlete wants to make it to the big show. The benefits of becoming professional are tantalizing. But, sometimes, athletes attempt to make the jump before they are ready, and Hollis Thompson is a case in point. Forgoing his senior season at Georgetown, Thompson declared for the NBA draft last spring.

The question that’s arisen since then is whether or not his departure was worth it.

A month after going undrafted in June, Hollis was picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a perennial title contender. He signed a three-year contract with the team, but it would be short-lived. Thompson was soon demoted to the Thunder’s Development League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, where he is currently playing.

On the bright side, Thompson has his foot in the door, and there will be plenty of opportunities to climb up the ranks. Last year, 27 percent of NBA players had some D-League experience, including standout Jeremy Lin. But success is far from guaranteed, and the last two years on his contract are conditional.

The D-League is no slouch. It is filled with many second-tier college players like Kevin Jones and Darius Johnson-Odom, guys who arguably have better resumes than Hollis and will definitely give him a run for his money.

But it is still the D-League. The 66ers are one of 16 teams that no one really pays much attention to, filled with handfuls of wannabe NBA players whose names are forgotten unless they get called up to brighter lights. And for the time being, Hollis is one of those names.

There is potential that next month or next year might be better. But in evaluating the wisdom of Hollis’ decision to leave early, the only thing that matters is what he is doing right now.

At this exact moment, Hollis could be back at Georgetown. Imagine what he sacrificed to play for the 66ers. Imagine what could have been if he had stayed. As the lone senior and leading outside shooter, Hollis would be the unquestioned leader of the Hoyas and the big man on campus.

Alongside Otto Porter Jr., he would be the cornerstone of the Hoyas’ offense, with plenty of opportunities to improve his game after an underwhelming junior season. Next year, he would likely have an even better shot at getting drafted and playing in the NBA.

And did I forget to mention that Hollis would be back in college, some of the most fun and exciting years in life? It is difficult to put a price on something like that.

Of course, you can’t really blame him for leaving early. Maybe he didn’t like being at Georgetown or was ready to break into the working world. Last year, Hollis had an outside chance of getting drafted, so why not roll the dice? He had an even better chance of being signed as a free agent, so why not forgo his senior season?
Hollis might end up in the NBA one way or another, maybe even this year. But that’s not the point. If he had stayed at Georgetown, he probably would have gotten to the big show anyway.

Unless he had a complete meltdown or a freak injury, an extra year in college would have boosted his basketball resume, not diminished it.

I wonder what Hollis is thinking now. Did he make the right choice? I do not think so. He could be playing for a premier college basketball program and living on the Hilltop.

Hollis gave up a lot when he left this school. For what? For playing with the 66ers. For living in the middle of nowhere. For making $20,000 a year. That doesn’t really sound like what he wanted, at least not yet.

Next year, Porter Jr. will have to make the same decision. I wonder if he is willing to make the same sacrifices.

Nick Fedyk is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. MORE THAN A GAME appears every Tuesday.

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