The NCAA has a very narrow time frame within which men’s basketball players have to decide whether to withdraw their names from the NBA draft. This year, a young man with NCAA eligibility remaining who submits his name to the NBA for inclusion on its draft list must withdraw his name from the NBA draft list by April 15 if he wishes to return to school and play the following season. Further, he must not have signed with an agent.
This rule probably won’t impact the top players (think Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon, for starters) who probably have known for some time whether they will in fact enter the 2014 draft. On the other hand, a young man who is not certain to be drafted in the two rounds of the NBA draft does not have a great deal of time available to make this significant decision about his future. In fact, if he is on a team that is involved in postseason basketball (there are now four postseason events), his time and ability to focus on this crucial decision are further limited.
Why did the NCAA set the deadline of April 15 for withdrawal from the 2014 NBA draft? It is important to note that the National Letter of Intent signing period for men’s basketball begins this year on April 16. Schools and coaches want to know how many opening they must fill, and they do not want to over-commit scholarships.
That is understandable. My question is: why not simply move the NCAA signing period roughly two weeks later to conform with the April 28 date the NBA has established for withdrawal of names from the draft list? My sense is that the top players know today whether they intend to declare for the 2014 draft. Again, the rule really impacts the borderline NBA prospect, and that person is exactly the one who needs more time, not less, to study his options and learn how he is viewed by the NBA before he gives up his college eligibility.
For example, a key opportunity for borderline NBA prospects to impress NBA scouts is the Portsmouth Invitational, held this year from April 16-19. As you can see, this important event takes place right after the NCAA deadline for a player to remove his name from the draft list. A player could roll the dice on his future performance in Portsmouth, keep his name in the draft, then play poorly in Portsmouth and find himself unable to return to play in college in addition to being unattractive to the NBA. That seems like a very harsh result to me, especially given that the issue could be fairly easily resolved through a change of dates for the NCAA signing period.
Many coaches reportedly have advised their players not to submit anything to the NBA until its April 28 deadline in order to give the player every last day to learn how he is viewed by the NBA and to participate at Portsmouth if invited. This story from Andy Katz of ESPN describes how some coaches approach this matter. For a more critical perspective, please see this story.
We ask so much of student-athletes today as athletic participation, particularly at the Division 1 level, has come to demand a year-round commitment to strength training, conditioning and basketball skills work. These are the athletes whose performances generate the vast majority of NCAA revenue. These are the athletes on whose collective back March Madness has become an American institution. Why not explore all options to see if there is a way to help these young men make informed decisions about their futures? Why force them into potentially disastrous decisions, as is now the case? There must be a better way.
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