Rule change could improve college basketball

ESPN has reported that NBA commissioner David Stern is very close to inking a deal with the Players' Association that would set a minimum age of 20 years for the 2004 draft. If Stern can finish the deal that he has been pursuing for the last few years, it will change the college game drastically, both now and in the future.

There are a multitude of reasons why David Stern is in favor of an age-minimum for the NBA Draft. Players like LeBron James, who are giving the NBA black-eyes for their off court behavior even before they are in the league, will be entirely eliminated. NBA teams like the Chicago Bulls will not be able to force their fans into watching children develop into men, and hopefully successful ballplayers for three years. The owners will no longer have to baby-sit 18 year-olds who do not yet know how to do laundry or buy groceries.

Assuming the NBA commissioner is able to finish his deal this year and place an age minimum for the draft, then it could seriously shake up next year's recruiting classes. Many collegiate teams risk losing their highly prized incoming freshmen who may choose to jump to the NBA now, rather than waiting the two seasons it would take for them to reach the age minimum.

There have already been rumblings that Duke could lose both Luol Deng and Kris Humphries to the draft. Deng and Humphries, who both are considered possible one-and-done collegiate level players, have a lot to risk if the new rule passes. They could, in theory, go to Duke, have a spectacular freshman year that would have landed them in the lottery, but be forced to play another year or two on the college level. These highly prized recruits may not want to risk a career ending injury in college, and choose to instead take the money while they can, right now, instead of enrolling at Duke. There stands to be a mass exodus of high school players and freshman college level players who may decide to make the jump to the NBA now to avoid being subjected to the rule change.

A similar situation happened when the NBA was considering the rookie salary cap. The rule, which is now in place, caused many players to jump early before it was instituted. Not only did the college game suffer, but a number of unprepared players made the leap a year or two early.

The rule will not necessarily have any impact on Arizona. Josh Pastner has said recently that he is not at all worried that Ndudi Ebi, the most likely of the incoming class to make a jump to the NBA, will forgo his scholarship for the NBA draft.

"I can only speculate how long he'll be here for, but Ndudi has his head on straight, and is coming to Arizona for an education (as well as for basketball)," Pastner said of the player he recruited.

In addition to the plethora of high school and freshman college players who will make the jump now, if the rule is accepted by the Players' Association, it will dramatically change the dynamic of college basketball into the future. Just imagine if Suns' rookie phenom Amare Stoudemire was playing in college right now. Stoudemire's Memphis team (the school he verballed to) would probably be a top, if not the top contender, in the tourney. Or try imagining the recruiting madness that would be occurring if LeBron James were one year younger, and this rule passed.

If the rule does go through this year, it will be a huge victory for the college game. Not only will the NCAA reap the benefits of players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and Kevin Garnett being forced to hit the collegiate hardwood, but the NCAA will also be able to keep players for longer than their freshman year. In the future, the college teams will get the benefit of having players like Eddie Griffin and DeJuan Wagner for more than one year. If the rule does indeed pass, it could be a very eventful year for recruiting, and more importantly, it will shape a positive future for college basketball.

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