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New draft rule expands opportunities

More than 110 student-athletes garner feedback on their NBA draft stock

Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships

This year, a new NCAA rule allowed players to withdraw from the NBA draft by a date set 10 days after the conclusion of the NBA draft combine, giving prospects an assessment period about five weeks longer than in previous years.

More than 110 players, nearly three times the usual number, took advantage of the new rule as early entrants into the NBA draft. They acquired information on their prospects as a pro, worked out with individual teams, and some participated in the NBA draft combine. By May 25, the withdrawal deadline date, 58 chose to return to their collegiate programs.

“There is no question that some underclassmen benefitted from the process,” Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, said. “Both some that decided to stay in the draft and some who came back – who clearly, in my mind, would not have come back had they had to declare in April and that was the last opportunity they had.”

The NCAA is conducting a survey of institutions that had underclassmen test the waters and return to get feedback on the process, which will be reviewed by the Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee when the group reconvenes in October.

Why the new rule? In its 2005 collective bargaining agreement, the NBA instituted an age limit for its draft, effectively mandating that basketball players from the United States spend at least one year in college or lower-tier developmental leagues before being able to join the professional ranks.

In 2011, in hopes of battling the subsequent “one-and-done” phenomenon, NCAA schools adopted an early deadline by which student-athletes had to withdraw from the draft. By having student-athletes make a decision on whether to turn pro earlier than in the past, members hoped that those athletes would be able to sharpen their focus on either a pro career or returning to school and also give coaches more flexibility with roster planning and recruiting.

But some players with professional aspirations surrendered their collegiate eligibility only to find themselves unprepared for the next level.  Quickly, many NCAA coaches joined forces to support change.

“I think coaches realized the previous process wasn’t working,” Gavitt said. “It was certainly not to the benefit of student-athlete underclassmen, who in (the coaches’) minds were making poor decisions because of lack of information.”

Following discussions at the 2014 Men’s Final Four, the National Association of Basketball Coaches – led by executive director Jim Haney and several coaches of high-profile programs – and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked together with the NBA to change the process. In June 2015, the Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee recommended its proposal to the Division I Council, which adopted it at the NCAA Convention in January.

“The timing was good because with the start of the oversight committee in the governance process, it had kind of a natural progression,” Gavitt said. “That was one of the first things that the Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked on. They’re the ones who sponsored the legislation through the Council and thus got the membership to vote on it.”