Sunday, April 22, 2007

Should I Stay or Should I Go...

Once upon a time this was a question that was only pondered by the top college juniors. Nowadays, it seems like every college player who averaged more than 10 points per game is considering the NBA draft. As a result, college hoops fans spend the time between the end of the season and the deadline for players to enter the draft anxiously waiting to hear if the stars on their favorite college team are going to make the jump to the NBA. There is no question that stars like Kevin Durant and Greg Oden will hit the jackpot when they are drafted. When Worthy and Jordon declared for they draft, everyone knew they were ready, and that they were going to cash in. But what about Brandan Wright and Josh McRoberts? Are they ready for the NBA? Where will they get drafted? Adding to this year’s confusion is the Randolph Morris loophole that may have added a few extra names to this year’s draft list.

Today there are only 60 draft picks. Of those, only the 30 first round picks are guaranteed money. I’ll have to admit that if someone came to me after my freshman year at State and offered me $100-thousand a year to go to work, I would have left in a second. Therein lies one today’s problems. Not everyone who declares for the draft knows where or if they will be drafted. Only a very few of the elite players know they will end up on the high dollar portion of the draft. For everyone else, it’s just a crap-shoot. Too often, players listen to the wrong people, declare for the draft, hire an agent and then poof, they end up playing in the Italian Pro League. Don’t get me wrong, money is money, and in most cases the guys playing in the European Leagues make more money a year than I do. One has to wonder if these guys would have declared for the draft and hired an agent if they had known where they would end up playing… maybe they should have read the NCAA manual a bit more closely before making a decision on hiring an agent.

The current NCAA rules put marginal players in a bit of a bind. If a player does not sign with an agent and pulls his name from the draft, he is eligible to return to school. However, if a player stays in the draft and gets drafted, his college career is over. If the player falls into the second round, he had better be impressive in camp. Otherwise, he’s headed to Europe, or worse.

The best thing that could happen to a marginal player, who is not bright enough to pull is name from the draft, would be to go un-drafted. Current NCAA rules allow a player to enter the draft once during his collegiate career. If the player is not drafted, he retains his college eligibility as long as he pays his expenses to pre-draft workouts and does not sign with an agent. The real kicker though is that an un-drafted player cannot be drafted in any future draft, making him a free agent. Many did not realize the ramifications of this loophole until Randolph Morris signed with the Knicks soon after Kentucky’s season ended.

Morris entered the draft after a lackluster freshman year at Kentucky. He was equally unimpressive during the pre-draft workouts and was not drafted. Unfortunately, Morris received bad advice prior to the draft that nearly cost him his sophomore season at Kentucky. After he repaid the expenses for the pre-draft workouts, and after Kentucky was able to demonstrate Morris had always intended to return to school, the NCAA reduced his suspension to 14 games. He was able to use the remainder of his sophomore season and this season to become at hot commodity among NBA teams. Technically, he could have signed with any NBA team during the college season. However, the feeling I get is that NBA Commissioner David Stern would not have been pleased with any team that pulled Morris out of Kentucky before the Wildcat’s last game.

So, before you write that favorite player of your off after he fails to pull his name from the draft, check to see if he hired an agent. If he didn’t, he may be smarter than you thought. If he goes un-drafted, he gains control of his own NBA destiny.

Later this week, after we learn what Brandan Wright plans to do, I will post my thoughts on how the draft should be handled.


ken white said...

Great article.

Anonymous said...

Thanks... the research I did was a real eye-opener. Can you imagine what could have happened if that loophole had existed when Gugs was a freshman?