I would agree that the recent lack of college graduates among the NBA's top draft picks is distressing for the game of basketball -- especially at the college level ["Student Athletes Without Degrees," letters, July 14]. However, to claim that 11 of the top 13 players' not being college graduates is evidence that athletic scholarships are not a "real avenue to a college degree for underprivileged kids" is ludicrous. Those 11 players represent individuals with an exceptional level of talent. They are not the rule. The demand and market for their skills is present, regardless of their age.

Most basketball players who receive athletic scholarships at NCAA schools are not drafted into the NBA. Their athletic skills provide them with a valuable education, and they use that background for a job other than NBA player.

On a separate but related topic, the notion that all first-year college students should be denied the opportunity to participate in NCAA athletic competition is ridiculous ["Freshmen in Sports," editorial, June 16]. I competed as a student athlete for all four years of my college experience, but neither my sport nor my talent level were conducive to building a career after graduation. Nevertheless, I consider my college athletic experience to be irreplaceable. The camaraderie and the lessons inherently associated with competing as part of a team will stay with me to the end of my days. It saddens me to think that someone would propose denying someone else 25 percent of that experience.

ROBERT DIMITRI

Arlington