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NCAA basketball non-seniors have smaller window to declare for NBA draft

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2010; D01

Since declaring for the NBA draft on March 31, Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney, a junior, has prepared by working out and taking classes in Blacksburg, Va. But Delaney and others in his situation are facing a particularly difficult decision process this year.

The NCAA has shortened by about a month the window in which early entrants can remove their name from the draft without losing eligibility. The change has drawn a mixed reaction among college players and coaches and NBA officials and executives.

Some players and their families are critical of the change because they say they do not have enough time to make an informed decision. But some college coaches have said the shorter time frame would allow them to set their rosters, because they can add recruits in the late signing period if any current players decide to leave early.

Unlike players such as Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall, who is likely to be the top overall pick in the June draft, Delaney's draft stock is not as easy to ascertain, which has made his decision more difficult.

"The decrease in time is frustrating because you don't get a chance to explore things as much as you would if you had the extended period of time," Delaney's father, Vincent, said in a telephone interview.

The elder Delaney said the new time frame was "a disservice to the player."

Last year, players had until June 15 to withdraw their names from the NBA draft without losing a year of eligibility. Now non-seniors have until May 8 to withdraw, as long as they don't sign with an agent.

The list of 103 early entrants, including 80 players from U.S. colleges, into this year's NBA draft was released on Thursday, giving players a little more than a week to work out with NBA teams before deciding whether to keep their names in the draft. The NBA combine is May 19-23 in Chicago, and the draft is June 24 in New York.

In a statement, the NCAA said the longer time period was "intrusive on academic performance during the spring and increased the potential for outside individuals to have a negative influence on the well-being of student-athletes."

"The deadline still provides sufficient time for student-athletes to declare their draft intentions," the NCAA said of the shortened time frame.

For most coaches, the new rule will have no impact on them on a year-to-year basis.

Butler Coach Brad Stevens, who led his team to the NCAA title game in March, said he did not have an opinion on the change because Gordon Hayward, his star forward, was the first of his players to declare for the NBA draft. Hayward, a sophomore, is a likely first-round pick.

"From an outsiders' perspective, certainly it makes the decision more difficult; for families, a lot more difficult," Stevens said in a telephone interview. "At the same time, I think it protects schools from losing three or four guys off their team and having to rebuild in a short amount of time. I certainly can see both sides of it."

But for Stevens's peers, dealing with such turnover has become part of their job description. For example, in April, five Kentucky players declared for the draft.

At Georgia Tech, Coach Paul Hewitt had two of his star players, freshman Derrick Favors and junior Gani Lawal, declare for the draft. (Favors is expected to be a top-five pick. Lawal cannot return because he declared in 2009 but opted to return; players can only submit and remove their name once without losing eligibility.)

Hewitt said he heard much discussion in coaching circles about the NCAA's decision to move up the deadline to withdraw to May 8.

Hewitt said coaches worried they would be criticized as a result of the new withdrawal deadline because it would reinforce "this whole idea that we're trying to save our own skin." The moved-up deadline allows coaches, if one or many of their players leave, to add recruits during the late signing period, which runs from April 14 until May 19.

Hewitt said that was not the factor motivating coaches. "At the end of the day, people have to understand college coaches are working for the best interest of their players," he said.

Hewitt said he was curious whether advisers were directing more players to leave early this year because the NBA collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season, and owners will be pushing for a hard salary cap in any new deal, which would constrict players' salaries.

Some NBA officials have wondered what impact the shortened window would have on the athletes and on the professional teams evaluating them.

"This is kind of like, well, let's see what happens," said Ryan Blake, the assistant director of NBA scouting. "Some of the teams would like a better opportunity to bring these guys in. I think for us, we don't want those bad decisions, we don't want regrets. We want guys that are better available to come in and make an impact, the guys who are ready."

Last year, Greivis Vasquez, the former Maryland star, declared his eligibility for the NBA draft but opted to return to College Park for his senior season. He said he went to three workouts where at least 17 teams were present. Vasquez's decision to return paid off. He led Maryland to the second round of the NCAA tournament, was named ACC player of the year, won the Cousy Award as the nation's best point guard and probably lifted his draft stock. But it was a hard choice this time last year.

"I was under a lot of stress," Vasquez said. "The good thing is, I did all those workouts, and I didn't feel 100 percent sure; I felt that something was missing. If you're not 100 percent in, you might as well come back and get better."

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