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New draft rule would help colleges, NBA

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

July 5, 2004 | ESPN Motion: Vitale on Coach K staying at Duke ESPN Motion

Obviously, the big news is coach Mike Krzyzewski's decision to remain at Duke rather than accept an offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. And yes, he made the right decision, baby!

I would love to see a rule where once a college basketball player steps on campus, he can't leave until after his third year.
Recent developments -- including his players leaving early (Luol Deng) or his recruits not even going to college at all (Shaun Livingston) -- were a major reason why Coach K thought about leaving. Duke also has lost others early over the years, including Elton Brand, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and and William Avery. It has been Frustration City for Krzyzewski.

When college coaches gather for an NABC meeting on Wednesday, a recommendation will be made to curtail all of these high school kids from being drafted. But I don't see the NBA going for that -- the NBA Players Association is unlikely to accept any proposal of an age limit.

I agree in a way with comments made recently by Temple coach John Chaney. He said that you can't deny a young kid the right to earn a living in the NBA if that's his desire. Still, while we hear about the success of high school kids like LeBron James, we don't hear enough about Lenny Cooke, James Lang, D'Angelo Collins, Ellis Richardson, Tony Key and Korleone Young. They go undrafted or can't make the NBA cut at their young age ... and they become basketball vagabonds.

In the past I've supported a draft age limit, such as the 20-year-old limit that has been proposed by NBA commissioner David Stern. But here's my new suggestion to make things better: Rather than establish an age limit, I would love to see a rule where once a college basketball player steps on campus, he can't leave until after his third year. This would be a great solution to a major dilemma that would bring stability to college basketball and the NBA.

Major League Baseball has it working beautifully because everyone is on board with its rule. High school baseball players can be drafted by a major-league team, but once a baseball player goes to college, he isn't eligible for the MLB draft until after his third year (the exception: if he goes to community college or junior college, he's eligible again the next year).

In the NFL, a player is eligible for the NFL draft only if it's been three years since his high school graduation (it doesn't matter if he attends college all three years).

This would be a great solution to a major dilemma that would bring stability to college basketball and the NBA.
Why not have the NBA form a committee of several general managers and let them determine five kids coming out of high school who have the potential to become lottery selections. Therefore, as a college coach, when you're in a recruiting battle you'll know in advance which kids most likely will jump to the NBA. College coaches would know the status up front. And if that youngster decides to go to college, that's great.

This way, high school standouts like LeBron, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett would have that chance to jump straight to the NBA. Very few are capable of making it to the pros right away. Just look at last year's draft: Neither Travis Outlaw nor Kendrick Perkins nor Ndudi Ebi had much of an impact. You can't make me believe that those guys wouldn't have been better off with a year of college experience.

Only a handful of high school players can make a difference in the NBA without developing their skills in college first. My solution would keep the door open and let the superstars move on to the NBA.

College basketball is still the greatest breeding ground for the NBA. The college game and the NBA should be able to work together in a cohesive fashion. A three-year rule would be beneficial to all parties -- the pro teams, the colleges and the players.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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