Burlison on NBA Draft Early Entries

Some of them will eventually come to their senses and return to college on June 16. But 69 underclassmen have decided to tip their toes into the NBA Draft's early-entry waters. Some of them better hope they don't slip and drown...

Early-entry into the NBA Draft – at least from a perspective of sheer numbers – could take a bigger bite out of last month's Final Four field than it did the 2007 counterpart.


A year ago nine underclassmen from national champion Florida (Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green) and fellow Atlanta Final Four clubs Ohio State (Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook), UCLA (Arron Afflalo) and Georgetown (Jeff Green) entered the draft via the early-entry route.


This time around the number climbed to 14, with runner-up Memphis (Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier) and UCLA (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp) with four apiece, and national champion Kansas (Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers) and North Carolina (Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green) three each.


In 2007, nine of the underclassmen that started in the Final Four (four apiece at UCLA and Georgetown, and one – Jamar Butler – at Ohio State) didn't put their names into the early-entry pool.


How many of the underclassmen who started in San Antonio on April 5 didn't submit their names into the early-entry pool that was released by the NBA on Thursday afternoon?


There were just four: Darren Collison of UCLA, along with unanimous Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and his North Carolina teammates Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard.


Each of the nine 2007 underclassmen entries was a first-round selection, with all but one of those (Cook) being a lottery – top 14 – choice.


A lot of NBA decision-makers' decisions can be shaped, or radically changed, between now and Draft Day June 26).


But here is saying that the current pool of Final Four underclassmen, collectively, will not have the impact on the first round (especially in the lottery portion) on the upcoming draft that the 2007 group did last June.


Rose (who could be the No. 1 overall selection) and Love would seem to be the only sure-fire lottery selections at the moment, although some think that Arthur and Westbrook could play (or, more accurately, "work out") their way into being top 14 choices.


*The NBA Players Association almost certainly would never go for it, and I'm not so sure that league owners, general managers and personnel directors would necessarily be too keen on the idea, either.


But add me to the list of those who believe the best way to go, draft-wise, for the overall good of the NBA and college games, as well as the development of the players from both entities, is the Major League Baseball Draft approach.


In that situation, high school players are eligible to be drafted, and signed. But if they are drafted and don't sign before attending their first class at a four-year university or college, they are not eligible to be drafted again until they have competed three seasons of play or turned 21, or drop out, when they would be eligible one year after quitting school.


Sixty-nine college underclassmen (including players with remaining eligibility no longer on college rosters) were on the list released by the NBA Thursday, the largest number ever. And that was, I would imagine, because underclassmen can now have their expenses incurred during individual workouts paid for by NBA teams, without losing their NCAA eligibility (if they elect to return to college).


*The most significant of the names not on the early-entry list: Hansbrough, Collison, Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Stephen Curry (Davidson), James Harden (Arizona State), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame), Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut), Tyler Smith (Tennessee), as well as the Louisville duo of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark.


Hansbrough is the most decorated college player to return for his senior season since Tim Duncan.


He, Collison, Griffin (who will be the best player in the Big 12), Curry, Harden (he could be the Pacific 10's best player), Smith (maybe the best in the SEC next season) and Harangody (this season's Big East Player of the Year) are leading candidates to be consensus preseason first-team All-Americans.


*You've seen preseason Top 25s in many other places, I'm sure.


But I'll hold off on my first one until June 17 – the day after deadline from college underclassmen to withdraw from the draft pool and hang onto their college eligibility.


Until then, they are all beyond moot.


Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.collegehoops.scout.com

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