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You hear the term “one and done” a lot these days. Usually it’s attached to the latest flavor of the month in college basketball, the “can’t miss” kid who feels like spending more than a year at the University of Wherever is a waste of their time.

The NBA made a rule that you have to be 19 before you can be drafted, meaning no more straight from high school to the pros, which is a good idea. I think three years is an even better idea. Sure, they may have the talent to play in the NBA straight out of high school (which really doesn’t say that much for the league), but there’s more than just having talent. College also helps you mature, and believe me, many of today’s stars could use a little maturity.

But that’s not what this column is specially about this time. It’s not about players leaving college early to play pro ball.

It’s about players leaving high school early. Or more specially, a player.

Bryce Harper, a 16-year-old catcher from Las Vegas High, recently completed his sophomore year, where his numbers were indeed impressive: .626 batting average, 14 home runs, 55 RBIs. And, to be eligible for the 2010 draft, where he is expected to be a top pick, he has decided to leave high school, earn his high school equivalency, and enroll at a junior college, the College of Southern Nevada, where he will play and take classes beginning in August.

“There are going to be critics,” said his father, Ron Harper. “But honestly, we don’t think it’s that big a deal.”

Not that big a deal? Excuse me, but this is a huge deal!

This could set a very wrong precedent for future players. And once again, it’s all about chasing the almighty dollar.

The sooner that Harper gets drafted, the sooner he can sign his bonus. The sooner he signs his bonus, the sooner his parents can quit their jobs. After all, he will still be a minor, and someone will have to look after his earnings.

And there’s no guarantee that he will make it at the pro level, and if he does, it still could be a few years of toiling in the Minor Leagues before getting the call to the Big Show. It’s that tough to make it.

And hitting against even Minor League pitching is way different than high school. He might turn out to be a huge bust at the pro level.

It’s not about whether or not you are good enough, it’s about letting a kid be a kid. And more and more, in today’s society, that’s becoming a lost art.

Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager who plays sports is even harder. The only thing a 16-year-old should be worrying about is getting his driver’s license and who to ask to the prom. Not whether he’ll be able to hit a Minor League curve.

You want to push your child to fulfill their potential, but you’ve got to know just how hard to push and when to let up.

Bryce Harper is going to miss out on some of the best times in his life, times he will never get back, no matter how huge a contract he signs.

You can’t put a price on youth. As Don Henley sang, “there’s just so many summers, and just so many springs.”

Denis House can be reached at sports@sentinel-echo.com.

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