MERRILLVILLE | Money is today's most popular drug in professional sports, a lure for superstars more concerned with dollar signs than playing on a contending team.
And for that reason, Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter and ex-Boilermaker/NBA standout Brian Cardinal can't blame a college hotshot for turning pro early.
Both voiced their opinions at Thursday's annual Purdue Coaches Caravan at the Radisson.
"If I was calling the shots, I'd make it open after high school. You should have the right to make a choice about your career," Painter said. "If you want to go to college, great. If you want to go in the Army, great. If you want to go in the (NBA) draft and they draft you, good for you.
"That's your decision. If you go to college for a month or for a year and someone offers you $4 million, you gonna take it or not? If you don't and get injured (in college), you're gonna feel like a fool."
Painter's fortunate. Most of his players stick like JaJuan Johnson and East Chicago's E'Twaun Moore did.
Both were second-round draft picks of the Celtics.
"They both came back, they both got their degrees, they're both finding a way," Painter said. "If it doesn't work out, you still have your degree.
"But I know this much: If E'Twaun Moore had come to Purdue and after his freshman year somebody said we're taking you as the eighth pick, I'd advise him to leave."
The 6-foot-8 Cardinal enjoyed a 12-year NBA career and is now an assistant director of the John Purdue Club.
"When I was playing, I wanted everybody to stay in college for four years or five years so that was one less person I had to compete against," Cardinal chuckled.
"A lot of them aren't prepared to play in the Big Ten, let alone the pros. But now, there's a lot of money to be made and to say that you can't make it is difficult."