The NCAA's decision to limit the time a college player can test the waters in the NBA draft process is a good one, but it does not go far enough.
Next year, underclassmen declaring for the draft will have to withdraw by May 8 to retain college eligibility. I have heard criticism that the earlier date is unfair to the players and that the NCAA is supposed to put the best interests of the players first. However, I believe that this rule does benefit the players.
If a player isn't sure, he should not declare for the draft in the first place. It does not do him any good to be out of school for two months to figure out whether he will be drafted where he wants to be drafted. I think the rule should be even more simple and direct. Once a player declares for the NBA draft, he should be renouncing his college eligibility. It would be direct, simple and sobering. And we would not have to follow the annual charade of athletes who declare for the draft with no earthly intention of staying in. It is ridiculous.
• Why is it that the NFL can effectively make players stay in college for three years before being eligible for the NFL draft, yet nobody seems to be as bothered by that as much as people are about the NBA's age limit?
If it is simply because everyone accepts that younger players are not physically prepared to play in the NFL, that reason doesn't seem good enough to me. Are people suggesting that the likes of Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker or Jim Brown couldn't have contributed to an NFL team as college sophomores? If eligible, would they not have been considered valuable draft picks as younger players? When the NBA's age limit was called "un-American," isn't it equally un-American to keep a football player from adding years of earning on the front end of an even shorter career instead of taking extra years of pounding in college for free? With regard to early entry, the NFL is simply smarter than the NBA. And that includes the players' association, too.
The NFL allows the college football machine to develop and market its players, and the NFL gets to scout the entire process. The NBA courts uncertainty and brings in unfinished products to its detriment. For every LeBron and Kobe, there are 20 young prospects who have no reasonable shot of being high-level contributors in their first three seasons.
• This year's NBA draft will be relatively weak, with very few obvious, sure things and a bunch of question marks. With so many unknowns, it can be attractive for a "lesser talent" to jump into the draft to see whether he gets taken this year when he knows that his prospects won't be as good next year. But there can still be some value in this draft, especially for teams willing to take a risk. And this is one year when teams can afford to take a risk.
•Every year, young American prospects fail to recognize that international players will take up significant space in the NBA draft. It is not always because they are better prospects, but because they are cheaper sometimes. NBA teams can select a foreign player, leave him overseas to develop and not have to pay him. With tight budgets and a relatively weak draft, several NBA teams might make this move.
•I don't know why the NBA was at all worried about Ohio State walk-on Mark Titus' "making a mockery" of the draft by submitting his name as a good-natured prank or publicity stunt. I thought it was kind of funny, really. But it was not nearly as funny as when Joseph Cammerano of Los Angeles Mission put his name in the draft in 1980, or Reinhard Schmuck of Baruch in 1987, or Dallas Lee Cothrum of Austin College in 1992, or Lemon Haynes of Augusta College in 1994, or Dut Mayar Madut of Frank Phillips College in 1996, or Ian Folmar of Slippery Rock in 1997, or Rashid Hardwick of Eastern Oklahoma State in 2001 and 2002, or Zac Fray of Santa Ana College in 2003.
All of those were funnier, and Titus, who later withdrew, had the same chance to be drafted ... zero. If you look back on the early-entry list of the 1970s and 1980s, there was sanity, logic and reason. But there is a sliding scale to early-entry decisions.
As the amount of money available goes up, the amount of sanity, logic and reason goes down.
• The entire youth basketball landscape has become a sad minefield for kids, but apportioning blame to the sorry state of high school basketball does no good.
There is plenty of responsibility to go around, and there are plenty of reasons we have so many problems. Remember the good old days when we worried about boosters and $100 handshakes? Now agents are all over the top prospects, and their fingerprints are all over these kids.
As Pat Forde details so well in his article on Renardo Sidney and the cast of leeches around him, there is no way to stop the hype. Whether it is Sidney, O.J. Mayo, Michael Beasley or any other top prospect, there is no way for a kid to go through the process without being compromised. It is like asking him to run through a car wash and avoid getting wet. If Congress really wants to look into something worthwhile (instead of wasting time on a football playoff), it should investigate the activities of agents in youth basketball. I would like to see some of these people under oath and subject to the penalty of perjury.
• The news about top recruit John Wall's arrest for misdemeanor breaking and entering was baffling. According to reports, Wall was seen leaving an unoccupied house that was for sale, but there was no forced entry, and nothing was taken, broken or damaged.
I do not know Wall. I have only seen him play. But I have heard from people I trust that he is a pretty nice kid. I think when the facts of the matter are known, and when people get beyond the headlines, Wall's actions in this incident may not look quite as disturbing.
It is odd, however, that he cannot make up his mind about where he wants to go to school next year. Although I do not expect any kid to decide early, making such a late decision is simply odd. It is not that hard to pick a coach and school. That process should have been wrapped up long ago. This incident certainly complicates things for everyone involved.
• There are reports that Florida International coach Isiah Thomas has "already angered" some Florida high school coaches for failing to call and notify a few recruits that they were no longer wanted despite a scholarship offer from the previous coach.
Thomas explained that he had just taken his compliance test and was not aware he could call the prospects. Look, there may be plenty for people to complain about with Thomas, now and in the future, but these high school coaches need to grow up and perhaps shut up.
One coach was quoted as saying he would close the door to Thomas' recruiting any of his players because of the way one of his players was treated. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Keep your other players from getting a college scholarship or even considering a school that may fit him because Thomas hurt your feelings by not calling when you wanted him to. Courtesy is important, but so is common sense. The high school coach in question needs to keep his eye on the ball. Whether Thomas called, sent flowers or wrote a note in calligraphy, the player was getting his scholarship offer pulled.
• I saw an article online that had Oregon coach Ernie Kent on the hot seat. In May.
What is the statute of limitations of a hot seat claim? The poor guy has been on the hot seat for a few years, and he is still sitting there. And even though his painfully young Ducks had a rough 2008-09 season, Kent has won a bunch of games there, too. Oregon has been to the Elite Eight twice in the past seven years, and let's not pretend that Kent has a bunch of national championship banners from prior head coaches staring down at him while he works.
Who has been more successful in the head coach's seat at Oregon than Kent? Oh, that's right. Nobody.