Coaches Sound Off On Age Limit

The new NBA collective bargaining agreement will keep players out of the draft until they turn 19 and are a year removed from high school. But how much influence will the rule have on college basketball? A Hall of Fame coach and a future Hall-of-Famer don't seem to think it will impact the state of their sport much at all.

When Lute Olson and Roy Williams speak on the subject of basketball, people have a tendency to listen.


So listen to what they have to say about the proposed NBA draft "age limit" that is expected to be ratified by the NBA Players Association within a matter of days as part of the league's collective bargaining agreement.


Here's a hint: They don't care much for it.


"I thought it would go through at (age) 20,'' Olson, the University of Arizona's Hall of Fame coach, told Tuesday afternoon after hearing of the proposal that will keep players from becoming eligible for a draft until they turn 19 and are one-year removed from high school.


"That would have served a purpose. I don't know if this will have any affect at all."


Olson, who expects to sign a new five-year contract with the school soon, knows that the truly elite prospects – the ones that would be chosen in a first round days after graduating from high school – are almost assuredly going to enter the draft as soon as their college freshman season comes to a close.


And he also knows that others, too, will just park themselves at a prep school for a season and wait out the opportunity to declare for the draft the following spring.


After winning a prolonged recruiting tussle with Texas and Duke a few years ago to sign McDonald's All-America forward Ndui Ebi only to lose him to the NBA draft the following spring, Olson made a calculated decision to never work that hard for a player he felt that he might ultimately never coach, anyway.


That's what led him to back off of 6-foot-6 Martell Webster last summer. The Seattle Prep player eventually signed with the University of Washington but is now anxiously waiting for Tuesday night when he'll find out which NBA franchise will make him a lottery selection.


Olson and his staff set their sights on another wing prospect in Seattle, 6-6 Marcus Williams of Roosevelt High, and signed him to a letter of intent. He's a Top 50-caliber prospect and doesn't figure – if we can make those kinds of assumptions in this era of the get-to-the-league-ASAP attitude – to enter an NBA draft pool anytime too soon.


But the "How hard do we want to pursue a guy we might have for just one season?" dilemma persists.


"It worked at Syracuse (where Carmelo Anthony, in his only season, was the driving force behind Jim Boeheim's club's run to the 2003 national championship)," Olson said.


"But there are not a whole lot of guys (freshmen) who can lead teams to national titles. And if you sign a guy like that and lose him (after one year), it will be too late to get a replacement because so many (of the best) prospects sign in the early period now. And they're not going to sign with you because they don't know for sure if that guy you already have is going to leave in the spring."


Roy Williams addressed the local (in person) and national (via teleconference) media in Chapel Hill Wednesday a little more than 2 ½ months after his North Carolina team beat Illinois for in the national title game in St. Louis.


He called the age limit aspect of the tentative NBA collective bargaining agreement "just window dressing.


"What bothered me," he continued, "is that now there is almost a stigma attached if a rising senior (doesn't at least test the NBA draft waters). It's like ‘Gosh, what's wrong with him?' Now they've just made it that way for sophomores."


Williams, like, no doubt, 99.5 percent of the NCAA coaches, would find the Major League Baseball Draft approach much more agreeable, "when a kid either signs (after being drafted) right out of high school or has to go to school for three years (before being draft eligible again).


"But that's the system we have. Whether you love it, which I don't, or you hate it, which I don't, it's the deal we have."



I think the 19-year age limit is all for show. And it's quite the transparent one, thank you very much.


How much more "prepared" for the NBA lifestyle – on and off the court – will being a year removed from high school graduation make a player?


And what of making 18-year-olds eligible for the NBA Development League? Isn't that option going to keep some players from focusing on keeping their academics in order in high school so as to qualify for NCAA scholarships?


Sure, the age limit will "force" a good number of probable first-round picks into college, if just for a season.


But I buy into the widely held notion that many potential NBA draftees will skip college altogether, spend a year at prep school that plays a relatively competitive schedule, while waiting to become draft eligible. I've also got a hunch that some of them might even come upon good-natured folks willing to "help them along" financially until draft day!


What a farce.


Indiana University Coach Mike Davis had it pegged.


"What's the difference between 18 and 19, except that they have to go to school for one year?" he told the Indianapolis Star. "I think it's going to be hard for some of these young players to get adjusted for one year. I really don't know why they put the rule in. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me."





Big East schools Georgetown, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame: Four of the conference's best players, Brandon Bowman, Kevin Pittsnogle, Carl Krauser and Torin Francis, opted to return for their senior seasons and will do much to keep their teams in NCAA tournament contention.


Alabama: The Crimson Tide knew swingman Kennedy Winston was long-gone. But Mark Gottfried and his staff sweated out junior-to-be post player Jermareo Davidson's decision to zero hour. With his return, and the addition of McDonald's All-America Richard Hendrix, Alabama looks like the Southeastern Conference's best team.


Kentucky: The loss of center Randolph Morris, who passed on three remaining seasons of eligibility with the Wildcats despite no promise of a first-round selection, probably drops Tubby Smith's out of preseason Top 15 status.


George Washington: The return of second-team All-Atlantic 10 post players Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, along with the decision of Saint Joseph's center Dwayne Jones to stay in the draft pool, helps make the Colonials the favorites to be the conference's best in 2005-06.


Steven Smith and Eric Williams: The La Salle and Wake Forest players performed well enough during the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp to get a lot of props from NBA decision makers – but not quite enough to bag a couple of first-round "promises". Strong senior seasons and solid workouts next May and June should get those guarantees the next time around.


Duke and Louisville: Weren't the "losers" some may paint them with the decisions of Shavlik Randolph and Amir Johnson to stay in the draft pool. Randolph's playing time in the post (behind likely All-America Shelden Williams and the Class of 2005's best prep, Josh McRoberts) was going to be limited, at best. And the decision that Johnson was going to bypass college had been the strong hunch of insiders in Southern California for a long while.




Some tidbits that have been passed my way:


·         Contrary to speculation, it's not the L.A. Lakers (at 10) or Minnesota (14) that holds the most interest in 17-year-old center Andrew Bynum – it's Portland. The Blazers, with the No. 3 selection, would like to maneuver their way into landing a couple of lottery selections (obviously, their own slot is the prime bait) and tabbing Bynum and Martell Webster.

·         Deron Williams is the point guard that Utah (sitting at No. 6) wants and the Jazz would like to make a deal with Portland or New Orleans for the No. 3 or 4 spots. They also have the No. 27 spot as bait.

·         Phoenix plans to nab French center Johan Petro at No. 21.

·         Indiana (at No. 17) likes Rashad McCants, Kennedy Winston, Ike Diogu and Hakim Warrick. At least one (Winston) and maybe three (along with McCants and Diogu) should be there when the Pacers are on the clock.

·         Denver and San Antonio are contemplating taking C.J. Miles with the No.'s 22 or 28 selections.

·         Andray Blatche has a first-round "guarantee", possibly somewhere in the high teens.



An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at Read more of Burlison's pieces at


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