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 Scout.com 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
That's what led him to back off of
6-foot-6 Martell Webster last
summer. The Seattle Prep player eventually signed with the
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
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."
OK, NOW FOR MY TAKE:
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."
EARLY-ENTRY DECISION WINNERS/LOSERS:
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.
George Washington: The return of
second-team All-Atlantic 10 post players Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, along with the decision of
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.
Some tidbits that have been passed my way:
Contrary to speculation, it's not the L.A. Lakers
(at 10) or
Deron Williams is the point guard that
· 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 Scout.com's National Basketball Expert
and is also a columnist for the