Great Expectations

There's a lot of pressure on young athletes making their way into professional sports. Most have had spectacular high school and college careers, and are expected to have continued success on the professional level. But this success isn't automatic. They have to keep working hard and keep improving as players.

Tougher Competition: One of the hardest things about becoming a professional is that the level of competition is much higher. A basketball player may have been the best on his college team, but pretty much everybody in the NBA can say the same thing. Players in the NBA are bigger, stronger, faster and better than most college athletes. A great college player may be able to make a mistake and use his talents to make up for it. In the NBA, there is not a lot of room for mistakes. Young players have to concentrate and understand that the talent level surrounding them is unlike anything they have ever seen.

Good Players, Bad Teams: In the NBA, the teams that finish with the worst records get the first draft picks. That means that the best college players end up going to NBA teams with losing records. This can be a tough adjustment. Most of these players are used to winning most of their games in high school and college. In the NBA, they have to learn quickly that losing is a part of the game. It may be frustrating, but as long as they put in a good effort for every game, they can feel good that they are helping their new team.

Pressure: Basketball fans will expect a lot from a good, young player who is drafted onto a bad team. They might expect him to single-handedly turn the team around in one season, or to score as many points as he did in college. Rarely, if ever, does this happen. Young players need time to get used to the NBA, and it takes time to build a winning team. A high draft pick may be a key piece of the puzzle, but one athlete can't reverse a team's fortunes alone. These players have to take their time and learn the professional game and not get caught up in the expectations of the fans and the media.

Not every good, young NBA player develops into a league superstar. But if they try hard to make adjustments and improve their game, they can usually enjoy a successful professional career.

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