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Some declaring for draft are making a mistake


April 20, 2004
It's the time of the year when you hear about players chasing their dream and entering the NBA draft early. They want to play with the big guys, players I consider to be the best athletes of any sport, the pro basketball stars.

Let me tell you, some of those declaring for the draft are ready, and a lot of others are not.

Recently, there was some great news down on Tobacco Road. First, N.C. State's multi-dimensional Julius Hodge opted to return to school. Hodge said he loved college and wanted to remain and student-athlete. Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah for Mr. Hodge!

Julius Hodge
Julius Hodge's return to the Wolfpack is great for coach Herb Sendek.
Coach Herb Sendek had to be jumping with joy over that news because Hodge is one of the best collegiate players in America. In my opinion the ACC is going to be dynamite with as many as six teams being ranked in the preseason top 15 and NC State will be in the mix.

What about the news in Chapel Hill? Roy Williams had to be ecstatic that Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton decided to return to don the Carolina blue jerseys next season. Now if the Tar Heels can get a confirmation from two future diaper dandies J.R. Smith and Marvin Williams, watch out!

How good would Carolina be if those three returned and the two diaper dandies made it to the Chapel Hill campus? They would be my pick for preseason No. 1 in 2004-05!

Stay tuned to see what happens on Tobacco Road.

When Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor opted to go to the NBA draft, it was absolutely no surprise. They can't be blamed after their performance in the NCAA tournament and three seasons on the Connecticut campus.

Their stock is as high as it will be and they must take advantage.

While those decisions are not surprising, I'm amazed at Arizona's Andre Iguodala leaving school early. Oh what a mistake he is making. He can use the coaching of Hall of Famer Lute Olson, a guy who does a wonderful job teaching kids to play within the team concept. Why would Iguodala want to leave after not dominating on the college scene. He was a good player, but if he came back, with the others returning, it would be a big, big year for the Wildcats.

Something tells me Iguodala needs Arizona more than the school needs him. Let's hope he doesn't sign with an agent and considers withdrawing from the draft.

Word has surfaced for a while now that Sebastian Telfair will likely go to the NBA and never step foot on the Louisville campus.

After watching some video and seeing his action, in my opinion, it would be wise to spend a year under the tutelage of Rick Pitino. With Pitino's teaching ability, motivational ability and discipline, Telfair would improve immeasurably, especially in shot selection and on perimeter shooting. He can handle the rock, but he can use the experience of playing in college under an outstanding coach like Pitino.

Kids should be more patient and take advantage of learning under outstanding coaches. I just look back at what happened to James Lang last season. Lang skipped college and wasn't picked in the first round. Now he's a basketball vagabond, without a guaranteed contract. He could have been at Kentucky or Louisville but he made a questionable decision.

Check out the story ESPN ran recently on Mario Austin. He thought he'd be a first rounder, but ended up drafted in the second round. Austin got a chance to play in Russia but wasn't happy and now he feels lost. He's a kid who would've benefited from another year in college.

Why do these kids go for instant gratification and listen to the wrong people? If they are going to be top 5-10 picks, than I can understand it. But, there are only 29 first-round choices and so many underclassmen and high school kids declaring.

Let's salute kids like Hodge, McCants and Felton who are going back for another season on the collegiate hardwood. The ACC certainly received good news with their return.

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

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