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May 1, 2011 at 10:32 AM

NCAA shortens time players have to test NBA draft waters

The NCAA is a greedy, money-sucking, self-serving, soulless entity that’s lost sight of its mission statement. But then we already knew that.
Perhaps like me you thought new president Mark Emmert might be able to implement positive changes in a billion-dollar bureaucracy that’s morally corrupt and duplicitous by design. I’ve talked to Emmert a few times when he was the Washington president and came away thinking the guy is a good dude.
Regardless of my feelings for him, it’s shameful what the NCAA did Friday.
The NCAA’s Board of Directors adopted a new NBA draft withdrawal date, which doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance. The NCAA has always struggled with legislating and controlling how basketball players make the transition from college to the NBA.
Back in the day players were selected in the draft and returned college. Remember Voshon Lenard? In 1994 he left Minnesota as a junior and was taken in the second round of the NBA. He returned to school the next season and finished his career as Minnesota’s all-time leading scorer.
A few years later, the NCAA tweaked the system. Players were allowed to enter the draft, but could only return if they weren’t taken. Remember Randolph Morris? The Kentucky freshman entered the 2005 draft and was not selected. He returned to the Wildcats during the 2005-06 season and played half the season. Morris left school after his junior year.
The NCAA tweaked the system again and imposed a deadline 10 days before the draft in which underclassmen needed to withdraw from the draft to retain their college eligibility.
This plan also had problems. In the beginning, the NCAA made the players account for everything in terms of airfare to workouts, hotel bills, meals, etc. In later years, the NCAA allowed NBA teams to pay for some of these costs.
Last year the NCAA moved the NBA deadline to May 8, which was absurd considering it gives players little time to work out for NBA teams.
On Friday the NCAA made another idiotic decision.

College basketball players must now announce whether they will pull out of the NBA draft before the first date of the spring signing period, which is traditionally mid-April.
This year 89 underclassmen declared for the draft.
Let’s be real. This rule doesn’t hurt the elite college players who are locks to be taken in the lottery.
This affects the next class of college basketball players such as Washington’s Isaiah Thomas, Washington State’s Klay Thompson and Stanford’s Jeremy Green.
They’re stars on their respective teams and in their respective conferences. They’re the lifeblood of the NCAA and they’re the under-paid talent that allows the NCAA to profit from a $10.8 billion television contracts for the men’s basketball tournament. We touched on the hypocrisy of the student-athlete concept as it applies to basketball players earlier this month, but Friday’s news provided more evidence the NCAA just doesn’t get it.
Players such as USC’s Nikola Vucevic and UCLA’s Malcolm Lee are good enough to carry their teams to the NCAA tournament and dominate in college. But each year only 60 players are taken in the NBA draft and it’s uncertain whether they’re good enough to make the transition to the professional game.
Rather than help these players at a critical time in their development, the NCAA decided to restrict the time they have to make perhaps the most important decision in their lives. The NCAA is siding with the coaches who argue they need more time to find replacements for players who leave early for the NBA.
“When your star player leaves, you’re left in a lurch,” a Division I coach said in an interview Saturday. “It’s not his fault. He’s taking advantage of the rules that are in place, but as a team you’re left scrambling to fill a serious hole.”
Maybe so, but I’m not feeling sorry for the coaches on this one. And I’m not buying this argument. Coaches know who may or may not leave early the minute they begin recruiting a player. They should have contingency plans.
And let’s be honest, you’re not going to snag the next Derrick Williams given a few extra weeks so late in the recruiting process.
If next year’s rule was in place, players testing the draft waters would have been forced to make a decision by April 13. The national championship game was April 4. That would have given Connecticut freshman Jeremy Lamb and Butler junior Shelvin Mack just nine days to make a decision on the NBA. Lamb chose to stay in school, while Mack declared for the draft but has not hired an agent.
The new deadline is ridiculous because NBA teams don’t hold workouts or combines before May. The NBA regular season ends mid-April and the league isn’t going to change it’s evaluation process just because the NCAA made this silly rule change.
This is what’s going to happen.
Washington guard Terrence Ross, a sophomore next season who is projected as first-round pick, is now forced to give serious consideration about his professional career during the season at a time when he should be concerned with more pressing matters such as winning basketball games and juggling academic responsibilities.
No one is naive. Most players, regardless of whether they have they have NBA talent, constantly think about making millions as a professional. At least in the past when an underclassmen was asked if they’re going to return to school, we could somewhat believe them when they said “That’s a decision I’ll make after the season.”
Under the new rule, there’s hardly any time to gather credible information and make an informed decision. The system is stacked against them. It forbids them from contacting NBA scouts and front-office executives during the year. It threatens to suspend them if they get too friendly with agents.
Then when the season is over they’ll get a little over a week to make a very important decision.
Someone has to advocate for these players because their coaches and athletic directors sold them out.
There was as simple solution that’s been ignored.
Why not change the regular-signing period? This year its April 13 to May 18. Why not move it back a few weeks or a month?
I floated the idea by three Division I coaches and no one could explain to me why this couldn’t work. There’s a chance the NCAA will change the new NBA deadline before it’s implemented, but the odds are slim.
The NCAA might as well and eliminate the testing-the-waters period all together.
At least that way, coaches and administrators wouldn’t have to prolong the pretense they care about anything other than keeping the billion-dollar bureaucracy running as smoothly as possible.

Comments | Topics: UCLA


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