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May 18, 2009

Is the smaller NBA window a good thing?

The NCAA's board of directors recently passed legislation that would make underclassmen who enter the NBA draft decide by May 8 whether they want to stay in school instead. Players currently have until mid-June to make a final choice. The rule goes into effect next year.

Will this be a help to college coaches? We asked Jason King and Mike Huguenin to take sides.


The NCAA can slap as many bandages as they want on this, but the reality is this: For a vast majority of players, the lure of the NBA always is going to be greater than the lure of playing college basketball.

The whole one-and-done situation is out of hand, and now the idea that having an earlier withdrawal date is going to cut down on the angst caused by players leaving for the NBA is laughable.

The current system actually is better for the players; they get to go through the NBA pre-draft "system" and get some legitimate feedback. The new rule supposedly will benefit the schools and coaches, not the players. The reason is simple: With seven fewer weeks of the process, the NBA feedback won't be there.

I'm betting that most folks think, "Well, if the feedback isn't there, the players will go back to college, where they should be anyway." That's not necessarily the case. Remember: For the vast majority of players, the lure of the NBA is greater than the lure of playing college basketball. (Or, in simpler terms: The lure of making money is greater than the lure of going to class.)

Instead of players making reasoned decisions after getting feedback, I'm betting that more will stay in the draft because they will think they will be drafted. It's going to be a mess and it's going to hurt coaches and their programs because more players are going to make poor decisions.

Here's a thought: The NCAA loves rules, so why not craft one in conjunction with the NBA that's actually based in reality? Here it is: If you sign to play college basketball, you're in college for three years. But it would only work if the NBA, at the same time, removed its rule about not allowing high school players to go directly to the NBA. Thus, it would be this simple for a high school senior: Enter the draft or go to college for three years. Then you won't have all this hand-wringing about whether May 8 is a good withdrawal deadline and whether the new date is going to help college programs.


For years, I've listened to college coaches complain about having to wait two months to find out whether an on-the-fence player will turn pro or withdraw from the draft and return to school. So most of them are in favor of moving up the date, and I can understand why.

If a player leaves school early for the NBA especially unexpectedly a coach will usually want to sign an additional player in the spring to take up that roster spot. Under the old format, coaches were handcuffed, because they couldn't offer a recruit a scholarship until the wavering player made his decision on the NBA in mid-June. Recruits not willing to wait that long would simply sign with another school. Now coaches will know how their scholarship situations stand a month after the Final Four.

The decision to move up the date couldn't be happening at a better time, as more and more recruits are waiting until the spring to select a school. Heck, this year alone, five recruits in Rivals.com's top 20 (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry, Renardo Sidney and Lance Stephenson) dragged the recruitment process into the second semester of their senior year. Two of those players (Wall and Stephenson) still haven't picked a college.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.
Jason King is a college basketball writer for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.



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