Rule change would alter draft process

April, 21, 2009
The NCAA legislative panel voted Monday to shorten the time frame in which underclassmen who declare for the NBA draft must decide whether to stay in the draft or return to school.

If the NCAA board of directors endorses the legislative panel's decision to reduce the early entry decision window from six weeks to approximately one week, there won't be any reasonable way for underclassmen to test the draft process.

Players really should declare whether they're in the draft or out. The current proposal makes the process of "testing the waters" or "gathering more information" moot.

USA Today first reported the panel's decision, which would make underclassmen decide by May 8 whether they were staying in the draft. The current deadline is 10 days before the draft in mid-June. (The rule would go into effect for next year's draft class.)

This year, the early entry declaration deadline is Sunday, April 26. It likely would be in the same time period in 2010. NBA teams don't allow underclassmen to work out at their facilities until the official list from the league office comes out, and that usually doesn't occur until four or five days after the declaration deadline. That means players would have about one week to work out and gauge how high they could go in the draft. A problem with this time frame is that it comes during or near final exams for most semester schools. If players were considering returning to school, they would have to be on campus for exams and couldn't afford to miss study or class time to work out for various NBA teams across the country.

The ACC originally proposed shortening the time frame a player has to decide whether to declare for the draft to about 10 days after the Final Four. The problem with that proposal was the NBA controls the important dates regarding the draft per its collective bargaining agreement. The NCAA can't change those dates -- namely the decision to declare in late April and the withdrawal date 10 days before the draft. NBA spokesman Tim Frank said that new rule would have little effect and wouldn't change the NBA's timeline.

The NCAA is aware of the tight timeline with a May 8 deadline and the practical obstacles like exams and workout schedules that might prohibit more informed decisions.

The NCAA's Steve Mallonee said Tuesday that it was a compromise from the ACC's original legislative proposal of making the deadline soon after the Final Four. But Mallonee also said the NCAA is waiting for the new collective bargaining agreement in 2011. In advance, the NCAA is talking to the NBA and NBA Player's Association about uniform dates.

Mallonee said this new date allows schools some time to fill recruiting needs before the spring signing period ends, too.

If this new rule goes into effect, there won't be any chance for underclassmen to gather concrete information about their draft status. The NBA is transitioning into a new NFL-like combine in late May in Chicago with no five-on-five scrimmaging. The NBA is still working through the logistics, but the tentative plan is to have interviews with the top players followed by skill work and some 3-on-3 scrimmaging at Attack Athletics, well-known trainer Tim Grover's NBA-like facility on the West Side.

Elite underclassman prospects who currently remain on the fence are expected to participate in the workouts May 28 and 29. But under this new rule in 2010, they wouldn't be weighing the decision of staying in the draft or returning to school. They would have to already be in or out.

• Duke doesn't expect to hear anything official from junior guard Gerald Henderson until Saturday. There were reports Monday that Henderson declared for the draft, but Duke couldn't confirm anything. Henderson is expected to be a solid mid-first-round pick if he declares.

• Texas A&M still should plan on being a contender for a top-five finish in the Big 12 next season even though three juniors -- Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis and Chinemelu Elonu -- declared for the draft this week. They were the second, third and fourth best scorers for the 24-10 Aggies this past season behind senior guard Josh Carter.

But Sloan, Davis and Elonu won't go in the first round of the NBA draft. They all are long shots to get close to the second round. So why declare? The feeling in College Station is that these players received little or no pub this past season. The Aggies weren't ranked. They were bounced early in the NCAA tournament, getting blasted by Connecticut in the second round. When the three players finish their eligibility after next season, they won't get any name recognition for being draft eligible. They will just be on a list of seniors. This is their one shot to get their names on ESPN's Bottom Line.

Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon supported the decision for them to declare because their dreams are to be in the NBA. But there doesn't seem to be any real concern that he might be down his top three returning scorers for next season. A year ago, DeAndre Jordan left Texas A&M for the NBA draft after his freshman season, thinking he would be a first-round pick. He went in the second. Whom these players listen to, as is the case with most of the marginal draft players, will determine whether they make an informed decision to stay in or withdraw from the draft.

• Tulsa might be the preseason favorite in Conference USA over Memphis with the return of center Jerome Jordan and the addition of point guard Donte Medder. Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik said the Golden Hurricane were a point guard away from being a difference-maker this past season. Having Medder means Ben Uzoh can return to the wing, a more natural position for him.

But will Tulsa have enough early season marquee games to warrant a potential NCAA at-large berth? Wojcik said the Golden Hurricane will play Oklahoma State and Colorado at home. The Cowboys could be an NCAA team, but the Buffaloes likely won't be next season. Other games include a tournament in Las Vegas with Nebraska, BYU and Nevada. Again, there are no NCAA locks in this group. Wojcik looked at Dayton getting an at-large bid with just two BCS nonconference games -- Marquette and Auburn. The Flyers won both. Dayton also finished 11-5 in the A-10. Tulsa finished 12-4 in Conference USA. Tulsa didn't get a bid.

"We were 12-4, and it didn't mean as much," Wojcik said. "The teams that won the Mountain West were 12-4, too [three-way tie with NCAA-bound Utah and BYU and NIT semifinalist New Mexico]."

Wojcik was blunt about the loss of John Calipari for Conference USA after his departure from Memphis to become Kentucky's new coach.

"I'm hoping the perception changes about the league," Wojcik said. "The perception was that Memphis was always so much better than everybody else."

Wojcik wants to get another marquee game and would go on the road but wants a return. He would consider a two-for-one but can't get a bite on any of those types of games, either.

• The NBA draft early entry deadline is Sunday. But early season tournaments can't wait until the withdrawal date. Here are some of the key tournament fields that are filled so far, all in November:

Coaches vs. Cancer: Four teams move on to New York

Four campus hosts in the 16-team event: Syracuse, North Carolina, Cal, Ohio State

NIT Season Tip-Off: Four teams move on to New York

Four campus hosts in the 16-team event: Duke, Connecticut, LSU, Arizona State

Maui Invitational: Gonzaga, Colorado, Cincinnati, Maryland, Wisconsin, Chaminade, Arizona, Vanderbilt

Paradise Jam, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands: Purdue, Tennessee, DePaul, Boston College, Northern Iowa, East Carolina, South Dakota State, Saint Joseph's

Old Spice Classic at Disney, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.: Baylor, Alabama, Florida State, Creighton, Iona, Marquette, Xavier, Michigan

76 Classic at Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.: Texas A&M, West Virginia, Butler, UCLA, Portland, Long Beach State, Minnesota, Clemson

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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