BY Todd Dybas 07:00AM 06/30/2011

Dybas: Early withdrawal rule penalizes college basketball

The know-it-alls at the NCAA recently passed another head-shaking rule. This one will expedite the departure of good players from college basketball who are unprepared for the NBA. Makes sense, huh?

Former Husky Isaiah Thomas said the NCAA early withdrawal deadline influenced his decision to stay in the NBA draft. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

When the lights were turned out last Thursday following the NBA draft, 14 players were left with nothing. All were college underclassmen who entered the draft early and shirked their remaining eligibility.

Of the 44 underclassman that stuck in their names for the glory, 14 went undrafted, 10 were selected in the second round and two didn’t withdraw their names in time to retain their college eligibility, but cost themselves an unlikely chance to be drafted.

That makes 26 players, including Washington’s Isaiah Thomas, who could have stayed in school one more year now left with questionable financial and basketball futures. A large reason for that is the ever-receding NCAA early withdrawal date.

The date for underclassmen to withdraw their names from the NBA draft without losing remaining college eligibility has moved from 10 days prior to the draft, to May 15 this year, then, after recent legislation was passed, all the way back to the first day of the spring signing period (essentially mid-April) starting next year. The NCAA has sucked out all the water that was previously tested.

“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I’m not sure who actually was in favor of that or why it got in.”

The only people in favor were misguided coaches and the equally misguided Div. I Legislative Council, which passed the new ruling. Yanking the date back further supposedly gives coaches recruiting clarity. If coaches know a star player will remain in the draft, they can recruit accordingly. That’s the rationale.

The problem with that is two-fold: First, finding a recruit in the spring that is the equivalent of an NBA-bound (or someone who thinks they’re NBA-bound) player is near impossible. Second, it burns players.

To the recruiting claim. Let the incredulous Boeheim explain:

“I don’t even think you could get a marginal player,” Boeheim said. “In May?!? See, that’s the part of the rationale I don’t understand. Who you going to get? You’re going to get a guy really you wouldn’t want, you might as well just wait until next year anyway.”

It’s Seattle-championship-rare to find a stellar player in the spring. Lauded Josh Selby — who should have stayed at Kansas and is now in the wobbly second-round boat — committed to Kansas in late April 2009. That’s mainly because he committed, then decommitted from Tennessee. Terrence Jones committed, then decommitted, then committed late last year, as well.

Neither was being recruited solely to fill early departure holes. They were recruited because they’re exceptional, and the pursuit began years before any draft declarations. The players recruited behind them were tracked because each school anticipated their departure after one season. It has nothing to do with the draft withdrawal date.

This rule burns the fence-sitter most, as if that was not already a sufficiently uncomfortable position.

Take Butler’s Shelvin Mack. He was selected 34th overall, at the start of the second round, last week by Washington. Were the new date in effect, Mack would have played the national title game April 4, then he would have to be out of the draft by April 15 in order to retain his eligibility. To think fence-sitting players can figure out anything in that timespan is ridiculous.

So, they’re going in. All in. We saw that this season with Thomas. On a conference call to discuss his decision, Thomas explained there was no time left to test the waters and receive a true assessment of where he may be selected. Instead of waffling, he went full bore to maximize workout time.

That was under the old rule. The new rule will cause more players to do that. If they wait a minute, there will not be enough time to make an impact on drafting clubs.

This rule is claimed to be for the coaches. When first mentioned to a Pac-10 assistant who concentrates on recruiting, his instant response was, “Good for us.”

No, it’s not.

The early deadline will stop the few who may have returned. They have no time to consider the final part of their decision. That’s bad for your time and sport.

All coaches understand players begin to think of the NBA in September. It’s not a sudden April epiphany.

Check that: They begin thinking about the NBA when the first coddling coach comes hopping through during junior high AAU.

College coaches are thinking right along with them. College programs recruit with anticipation, from Washington State to Kentucky.

Cougars head man Ken Bone brought in Faisal Aden because he wasn’t sure if Klay Thompson would play last season. John Calipari, the master of the one-and-done culture, anticipates massive annual turnover.

His numbers game is different. For most coaches, two or three players depart annually, including the star who declares early. The smart coaches plan for it.

“One guy isn’t going to change things,” Boeheim said. “You’re still trying to get a great player … when Carmelo (Anthony) left, we still had Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick and Josh Pace, those guys. We went to the Sweet 16 the year after Carmelo left.

“If he had stayed, we would have gone farther probably.”

Boeheim laughs when lamenting what could have been with Anthony in Year Two. But his point is precise.

The supposed protection this rule generates for coaches is a farce. Coupled with the likelihood of the NBA age limit remaining 19 after the new collective bargaining agreement is reached, college basketball will take another ding.

The process to bring about the rule is almost as baffling as the rule itself. Boeheim has no idea how the rule came to be. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who is part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches board of directors, said he doesn’t know the origin of the rule. He recalled it being discussed among members, but no consensus on its validity.

How can two coaches in such prominent positions not know how a rule of this stature came about?

Romar unintentionally made the most harrowing assessment of the rule’s extended effect.

“Long-term it depends on the draft,” Romar said. “If some kids are making quick decisions and not getting drafted, maybe in the future, if the rule stays intact, then kids may err on staying as opposed to leaving.”

So, in this experiment, a pileup of failure that leaves undergraduate players with no career and no education could eventually determine the quality of the ruling.

We’ll just wait to see how much waste is produced before reassessing.

Remember, the NCAA is about student-athletes. As this rule shows.


YourThoughts

  • Augustus Freeman

    Thanks, Todd.  This is the most info I’ve read on this story

  • Augustus Freeman

    Thanks, Todd.  This is the most info I’ve read on this story

  • Anonymous

    The NCAA (as usual) is cutting off its nose to spite its own face.  Players may collectively have a greater sense of self-worth than ever, which likely means that more and more of them are going to declare for the draft because THEY think they’re ready for the NBA.

    To me, the “X factor” in this is Europe.  I’m frankly surprised that more players have not followed Brandon Jennings’ lead after he ditched Arizona to go straight from high school to Italy, made some good money playing pro ball there for a season and still was a lottery pick in 2009.  For players who consider entering the draft early, playing overseas for pretty good coin (along with a car and apartment) in case they don’t get picked makes leaving school after a year less risky. It sure beats not having ANYWHERE to play.

  • RadioGuy

    The NCAA (as usual) is cutting off its nose to spite its own face.  Players may collectively have a greater sense of self-worth than ever, which likely means that more and more of them are going to declare for the draft because THEY think they’re ready for the NBA.

    To me, the “X factor” in this is Europe.  I’m frankly surprised that more players have not followed Brandon Jennings’ lead after he ditched Arizona to go straight from high school to Italy, made some good money playing pro ball there for a season and still was a lottery pick in 2009.  For players who consider entering the draft early, playing overseas for pretty good coin (along with a car and apartment) in case they don’t get picked makes leaving school after a year less risky. It sure beats not having ANYWHERE to play.