NCAA shortens time frame for early entries

May, 1, 2009
The NCAA created its own arbitrary withdrawal deadline for underclassmen for the 2010 NBA draft, setting it at May 8, one week after the NBA's early-entry declaration deadline. But how a player communicates this decision is still an unknown.

The problem is that the NBA's current deadline for underclassmen to withdraw is 10 days before the draft in mid-June. The league isn't going to change its dates next season. The only time the dates of the early-entry or withdrawal deadline can be altered is in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. That won't occur until 2011.

"The NCAA has just made this change, and we will have to consider how it affects our process," said Tim Frank, the NBA's vice president for basketball communications.

NCAA vice president David Berst said on a Thursday conference call, after the board of directors made the legislation official, that the players will have to let the NCAA know officially that they have withdrawn from the draft by the new deadline. But the unanswered question is how they will do so. Will the NBA issue a news release May 9 saying who has withdrawn from the draft like they would on June 16? Will the NCAA need some sort of official certification of the withdrawal letter?

The NCAA would need something official because a problem could arise if a player merely said he had withdrawn, without a corresponding official document, leaving open the possibility that he's still in the draft until the deadline in June. That could allow for him to be worked by agents or to talk to teams during that month. Obviously, if he still participated in workouts during that time, it would be clear he hadn't withdrawn from the draft and he would essentially be ineligible to return to college.

Berst said the NBA and NBA Player's Association would engage in dialogue with the NCAA to gain some sort of uniformity on the early-entry and withdrawal dates.

Berst said the NCAA is also sorting through how players would be able to work out during the week from declaring to withdrawing without missing school. A number of semester and quarter-system schools are still in session in the final days of April and early May.

Berst also indicated that the May 8 deadline would still allow schools to sign players before the May 20 spring signing period deadline. The problem is that if a school is losing an NBA-level player, they've probably signed someone comparable in the fall to replace him. If not, they're not likely to find anyone near that talent level in the final two weeks of the signing period, since it's rare that high-level players are uncommitted this late in the spring. If they could sign such a player, they would probably do it and jettison a scrub to make room for a scholarship. So trying to make this deadline before May 20 may not really matter.

Forcing NBA teams to squeeze in workouts in a week before underclassmen make decisions may also be unrealistic. A lottery team would have time to put its personnel in place. But a playoff team may not want to hold workouts so early just to satisfy a borderline mid- to late-first-round pick's desire to get a quick workout in before making a decision. It also puts pressure on the NBA teams to tell the player within a few days whether he should stay in the draft.

Ultimately, the NCAA has crept closer to the line of simply saying to underclassmen: Either you're in the draft or you're out. The NCAA can do that by passing legislation. Going halfway may create more confusion. The next step might just be to eliminate the faux "testing" process that will occur in 2010.

• The last two headline recruits for 2009 continue to play the drama card. John Wall, the highly touted point out of Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C., visited North Carolina Central, according to multiple reports in North Carolina. Depending on whom you talk to, Wall is weighing Kentucky, Florida, Miami and Duke, but this situation continues to be fluid.

Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson, the 6-5 shooting guard out of Brooklyn, is still slow-playing St. John's and Maryland and has placed Arizona into the picture, too. St. John's couldn't be held hostage forever, though, and had to make a move for a point guard. The Red Storm signed Malik Stith out of Bridgton Academy (Maine), the school announced Friday. St. John's will gladly take Stephenson if he ever decides on a school.

Kentucky will be waiting with open arms for Wall. But the Wildcats also have to do something at the point guard position and are in an interesting recruiting tussle with Memphis for point guard Eric Bledsoe of Parker High in Birmingham, Ala. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Josh Pastner was recruiting Bledsoe for John Calipari when he was the head coach of the Tigers and that Glynn Cyprien was recruiting Bledsoe for former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie when he was the Wildcats' head coach. Now Cyprien is Pastner's assistant. Kentucky's primary recruiting rival will be Kansas, with John Calipari and Bill Self having a similar eye for talent. But a Calipari-Pastner, Kentucky-Memphis friendly recruiting rivalry could occur if Pastner wants to recruit at a similar level.

• According to the Indianapolis Star, the NBA wasn't amused by Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus' attempt at humor in declaring for the draft.

• The Paradise Jam released its bracket for the Nov. 21-23 event in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Last year's event had an eventual Final Four team in Connecticut, an NCAA team in Wisconsin and a bubble team in Miami. This season's field should be just as good, with three similar teams in Purdue, Boston College and Tennessee. Purdue will open up with South Dakota State and play the winner of Boston College-Saint Joseph's. The top half of the bracket has the winner of Tennessee-East Carolina awaiting the winner of DePaul-Northern Iowa. The Panthers should be in the mix again in the Missouri Valley.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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