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Drew Sharp: NCAA needs stronger voice in NBA decisions made by underclassmen

By Drew Sharp Detroit Free Press (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:19 PM

There are more voices now than ever, coming from various directions. It only makes the difficult choice of prospective NBA draft candidates more challenging.

It might be even harder for the coaches.

“They’re listening to people living in their basement,” Michigan coach John Beilein said regarding draft predictions.

Beilein’s frustration addresses a much larger issue. Why must the NCAA put itself at the mercy of the NBA? Why doesn’t the NCAA give itself a stronger voice in determining the professional career possibilities, a policy independent of the NBA’s 19-year-old draft eligibility?

There’s an equitable solution. Give those 18-year-olds freshly removed from high school the opportunity to earn a professional salary for a year in either the NBA Development League or in one of the European professional leagues before they’re eligible for the draft. But if they sign a collegiate letter of intent, they aren’t eligible for early departure until the completion of their sophomore season.

Beilein said Wednesday that such compromises currently are under discussion within the NCAA.

“You ask players for a reason why they should go to the NBA,” Beilein said, “and they say, ‘I’ve always dreamt about going to the NBA.’ That’s not a reason for going to the NBA. The reason for going to the NBA should be because you’re ready to go to the NBA.”

Perhaps the discussion should focus more on what determines readiness.

Beilein could lose three sophomores to the NBA draft this summer — Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. But Robinson and McGary are potentially looking at a diminished draft value from a year ago when both were considered first-round draft picks. Robinson was generally considered a lottery pick.

Such is the NBA hypocrisy. It preaches the need for personal and competitive growth, yet the NBA doesn’t care that Robinson sacrificed individual statistics for the betterment of his team when McGary opted for season-ending back surgery.

Beilein had no choice but to move Robinson from his more natural small forward role to the power forward spot to compensate for McGary’s absence. Robinson’s overall game suffered because he played out of position.

And that spawned the requisite search for red flags among NBA executives. Was Robinson too passive? Why doesn’t he have more of a mean streak?

This was a selfless player who tabled his own interests for the sake of giving the Wolverines the best chance of winning.

But the NBA often punishes good character. And it wonders why it has a perception problem?

“I’ve got my ear to the ground like you guys have,” Beilein said. “And there’s going to be a discussion about whether there’s a better way for us to go forward. Everybody agrees there is, but how do you go about it? There’s a lot of people involved who need to have a constructive dialogue.”

The NCAA blithely accepts the NBA’s 19-year-old draft eligibility because it provides a fall guy when the one-and-done complaints rain down.

Don’t blame us. We’re simply following the rules handed us.

But the NCAA should take some initiative, because the current arrangement isn’t helping college basketball coaches who recruit these players and their families with the incentive that they can trust their judgment.

When it comes to an honest assessment of their NBA draft prospects, they are more inclined to listen to some anonymous “expert” with the Twitter handle “Pookie” instead of the coach.


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