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The NBA needs to goad the NCAA into changing its unfair 'early entry withdrawal deadline'

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

DraftExpress.com maestro Jonathan Givony, who is usually plugged in on such things, alerted us to a rather interesting bit of NCAA-to-NBA news we were previously unaware of. You know how the NCAA tournament – which, again, we’re all fans of over on the NBA side of things because we love good basketball and even bigger drama – ends on April 7? The NCAA apparently stipulates that players considering leaving school early to place their name in the NBA draft pool have until just April 15 to research their potential draft status, and either sustain their NCAA eligibility or dive into the draft.

That’s eight days after the NCAA season ends.

That’s nearly 2 1/2 months before the NBA draft.

That’s one month before the NBA’s draft lottery.

That’s well before most NBA teams have any clue as to a player’s draft viability.

That’s before players can work out with NBA teams.

That’s two months before the NBA’s own early entry deadline, now basically moot outside of international ball or D-League possibilities, hits.

Heck, that’s a day before the NBA season even ends.

It’s ridiculously unfair to the players and potential draftees who previously had worked for free for the NCAA’s billion-buck machine, and to a far more cynical extent it’s unfair to NBA teams that have to go through various channels both NBA/NCAA-legal and illegal in order to tell a player that it would be in his best interest to jump.

Givony explained it further:

What this essentially means is that there is no “testing the waters” anymore.

The reason for this change, in the NCAA's words is: “to help keep student-athletes focused on academics in the spring term and to give coaches a better idea of their roster for the coming year before the recruiting period is closed.”

This unilateral deadline imposed by the NCAA has been widely criticized by members of the basketball industry, as it is clearly a self-serving rule intended to protect the NCAA's own economic interests by severely restricting players' ability to explore their professional options.
“The way the rules are written, they're basically saying to the kids, ‘We're just looking at the universities, we're not looking after you,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said last year.
The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Issues Committee understood the concerns surrounding this dramatic change, including “the potential inability of student-athletes to gather all necessary information to make an informed decision, the disruption of team continuity during the latter part of the regular season/NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship tournament, and the increased media attention during the championship,” but nonetheless elected to push forward with it, with no change in sight.

The NCAA, focusing on academics. This is the same corporation that flies its basketball players around the country for half a basketball season that is pitched right in the middle of a school year, and then asks the players on the top teams to basically stay away from campus for the duration of March Madness as they chase down a title while 68 dwindles down to one shining moment.

Givony, who knows about this sort of stuff, smartly went on to point out just how much can change in a prospect’s draft status between spring and summer, in ways that don’t even go into details that emerge from both predraft measurements and individual workouts.

This rule, implemented in 2011, has little to do with the “one-and-done” potential NBA stars that just dot campus for their freshman year before moving on. What this does do is potentially threaten the careers of players considering whether to return for their senior years, would-be employees that want to know if it’s best to come out at a certain point because of the depth of a particular NBA draft, judging their potential contract based on draft placement and guidance from those in the know.

The NCAA doesn’t want these players, with NBA potential, to even deal with those in the know, cutting them off before the NBA can legally help them gauge their future as league employees.

Sort of the whole point of a college experience – being groomed for future employment, learning the tools of the trade and establishing contacts in the private sector – and the NCAA is legally preventing its players from taking that next step with experience and wisdom from potential employers on their side. All so they can strike fear into players, while encouraging them to return to school to play for free for another year.

While the NCAA and all its partners make billions, working against the very concept that higher education was created to provide. Swell group, these guys are.

Because this deadline doesn’t truly affect the one-and-done cream of the crop, players who decided long ago they were going to make the jump, the NBA should be dead set against this rule, because it affects the 55 or so draft selections who are no less studied but not nearly as certain. And this is all the more reason why the NBA should look into driving the draft deeper into the summer.

It’s understandable the NBA initially pitched its draft soon after the league’s season ends. When the league was less popular, it needed that nice wave of good feelings left over from a Lakers/Celtics series to almost immediately carry over into “should they take Sam Bowie or Michael Jordan?” If the NBA wants to truly become a year-round subject, as the NFL has learned to encourage, the league should push the draft into July, encourage a later free-agent period along the same lines and let teams catch their breath a bit following the Finals – even if 14 teams haven’t played since April, and even if only two teams play in June.

This would also possibly goad the NCAA into changing this rule, meant to intimidate the players who make them money into returning to help make them even more money. Especially if paired with an age limit increase, because if the NBA raises its age limit during its next round of collective bargaining with its players, it will be doing the NCAA a massive favor.

The NCAA wouldn’t be doing the NBA nearly as big a favor in return by changing the early entry deadline. It would truly be doing a favor for the young potential draftees, though, ones that have already put in one, two, or three years making money for the NCAA by ignoring their focus on “academics in the spring term,” and playing basketball on national TV in jerseys the NCAA can sell at outrageous prices, all for free books and stuff.

That would involve the NCAA actually looking out for these “student athletes,” though Don’t hold your breath.

There’s also this, if you want:

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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