BURLISON: What are they thinking?

Midnight Saturday was the deadline to put your name in the NBA draft. With 70 college underclassmen and high school players believed to have declared, and only 30 first-round spots open, you have to wonder who is advising these kids...

In hindsight, the question in the days following North Carolina's NCAA title game victory over Illinois on April 4 shouldn't have been "which college underclassmen and high school seniors will put their names on the NBA early-entry draft list?"

A more appropriate query would be: Does anyone out there want to play college basketball? Saturday, midnight, was the deadline for college underclassmen and high school players to apply for early entry into the draft.

And, barring a whole lot of those players, and/or those advising them, getting a sudden injection of common sense (OK, cool the laughter!), college basketball is going to take as big a one off-season talent-hit as I can recall.

Let's put aside the continuing watering-down of the level of college talent for a moment. I've no illusion that any of the players, or the parents/relatives/pseudo-coaches/quasi-agents who've convinced them they're going to hear David Stern reading off their names on the evening of June 28, give a rat's behind that "diluted" is too soft a word to describe the caliber of talent we'll be watching in the NCAA tournament next March.

But I'm wondering this:

What are some of these characters thinking?

There are only 30 spots in the first round, meaning – barring the rare second-round exceptions – only 30 players will be getting guaranteed contracts as a result of what takes place on draft night in New York City.

With right at 70 college underclassmen, high school senior and prep school players expected to have filed NBA paperwork by the deadline, coupled with a better-than-advertised college senior class (the most notable of its members being Channing Frye of Arizona, Hakim Warrick of Syracuse, Joey Graham of Oklahoma State, Danny Granger of New Mexico and Wayne Simien of Kansas) and at least five non-U.S./non-college players likely first-round bound, the mathematics aren't really complicated, folks.

There's going to be a whole lot of shell-shocked players, and people who helped coaxed them into tossing away their college eligibility, late-night June 28.

Of course, a lot of players and the people in their shadows will rationalize the possibility of not being selected in the first round by pointing to the examples of Rashard Lewis, Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Duhon – all of ‘em second-round picks.

Sure – that's it! Become a free agent sooner and get the "big" money that much sooner! Yeah!

Like I said, there's going to be a whole lot of disappointed basketball players on June 28. The draft pool is so saturated right now that there are going to be a lot of pretty good players – or, least, fairly decent prospects – that will go undrafted.

And that didn't be the case, if a player took an honest approach in evaluating his readiness for the draft – in large part through some sound advice.

But the truth of the matter is that, even when a player does get some solid input about his NBA stock (wherever it might come from), they choose to believe what they want to believe or what they cronies are telling them.

Too many influences – be they Internet draft "experts" who more than border on the clueless, relatives or buddies who smell a chance to dip their snouts into a first-round pick's seemingly bottomless trough of NBA cash – are warping players' minds.

We'll see how many of these 70-something guys are getting good advice, or at paying attention to such.

If, in fact, the NBA does institute a minimum-age requirement (more on that later), the 2006 draft pool may be the weakest ever.

A large percentage of those early-entry applicants should step back, take a deep breath, suck it up and be prepared spend at least another year playing college basketball and greatly increasing their chances of not having to play host to draft parties that end on a major league bummers.

As for the speculation for a minimum-age (20 keeps getting bounced around) requirement for draft eligibility, I'm sure it would keep a large number of players from being draft candidates before they are ready.

It would certainly up the talent level in college basketball and, based on the rhetoric, result in a better "product" in the NBA.

I'm all for both of those things but – and I'm no legal eagle – for the life of me I can't grasp how barring anyone who isn't 20 from playing in the NBA is constitutional.

Didn't the Supreme Court rule for Spencer Haywood, and against the NBA, in its 1971 ruling that led to underclassmen flooding NBA rosters?

BOUNCING AROUND THE NATION: *Remember when all of the draft pundits were writing that the high school class of 2005 was going to have little impact on the draft?

Right . . .

By my unofficial count, eight legit high school seniors and three prep school players have filed for the NBA draft.

Martell Webster and Gerald Green were considered the only preps who would definitely be first-round picks (possibly lottery) on June 28, with Monta Ellis and Andray Blatche the best of the rest, with legitimate first-round possibilities.

The word Friday that center Andrew Bynum, a McDonald's All-America from New Jersey who signed with Connecticut last November, had his name into the pool changes those dynamics, though.

If he stays in, it's a near-certainty that he'd be among the top 30 selections – too much "upside", naturally. Some scouts like him better as a prospect than they do Kentucky freshman Randolph Morris.

*The field for the John R. Wooden Classic (Dec. 10 in Anaheim, Calif.) will be made up of Washington vs. New Mexico, followed by UCLA vs. Nevada.

That's definitely what can be called a "Western-flavored" event.


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