Five years ago this week, the NBA staged its final draft that included players who had just graduated high school. Nine high schoolers were drafted, ranging from Martell Webster (sixth overall) to Amir Johnson (56th overall). Seven still are in the league, none of them just hanging on. In 2004, eight players were drafted out of high school, including Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith and J.R. Smith. Seven of the eight remain in the NBA. In 2003, five high schoolers were drafted, including LeBron James and Kendrick Perkins. The latter was one of four NBA Finals starters who jumped straight to the league from high school. Uh, tell me again why players have to wait a year out of high school to play in the NBA? The truth is, college players are a lot bigger risk than high schoolers, socially and athletically. The NBA does a much better job than do the colleges in developing ballplayers and maybe citizens. The NBA has drafted 43 players straight out of high school. Seven were or are bonafide superstars: LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Howard, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady and, if you count the 1974 ABA Draft, Moses Malone. Ten others were/are impact players. Andrew Bynum, Webster, Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, Perkins, Tyson Chandler, Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal. Eleven more were/are solid players who either start or as valuable as starters. The Travis Outlaw, J.R. Smith, Darryl Dawkins crowd. Seven more high schoolers were/are journeymen who carved out a decent career. The Dorell Wright, DeSagana Diop, Jonathan Bender class of player. That's 35 out of 43 high schoolers drafted that were legit, ready-to-make-a-career-of-it NBA players. Only eight busts can be found among the high schoolers drafted; only two never played in the NBA. Why is the NBA closing the door on high school entries? I don't see a rash of knuckleheads on this high school list. Sure, J.R. Smith and Stephen Jackson have been attitude problems. But so have dozens of players who made collegiate pit stops. Jamaal Tinsley went to Iowa State; you can't get more collegiate than Iowa State. Is the NBA trying to help college basketball? It's doing a bad job of it. College hoops seem more polluted than ever, with the likes of O.J. Mayo at Southern Cal and Tiny Gallon at Oklahoma. Was John Calipari's first Kentucky team, full of guys who stepped onto campus only for a year and only because they had to, good for the game? I don't see how. College basketball is a bearable product because of Duke and Butler, not Kentucky and Memphis. The theory that making NBA prospects spend a year in college gives scouts a better idea of what they're drafting? Doesn't wash. The evidence is overwhelming that NBA teams have done an excellent job of spotting high school talent. Sure, LeBron was a no-brainer. But the foresight to take Jefferson at No. 15 and Josh Smith at No. 17 and Al Harrington at No. 25 and Rashard Lewis at No. 33? NBA teams have gotten much better return on investment with high school talent than with collegians. Look at that 2005 draft. C.J. Miles went 34th overall to Utah, Ellis 40th overall to Golden State, Louis Williams 45th overall to Philadelphia and Andray Blatche 49th overall to Washington. That's four rotation players straight out of high school in one draft alone. Hard to find four rotation players out of college in any particular draft. It's all nonsense to make high schoolers wait. Yes, there have been some high school players who had no business in the draft pool, but that wouldn't even be an issue if not for the NCAA's punitive rule that makes players ineligible just for applying for and staying in the draft. Any good lawyer could get the NBA's rule struck down, except the case probably would drag out past the point of being relevant. You can legally discriminate by age in this country, but you need a reason of compelling public interest. Keeping 13-year-olds from driving on the streets benefits society. Keeping 18-year-olds out of the NBA does not. It's time to let the high school grads back in the draft. They've shown they can handle it. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.