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Monday, April 13, 2009

Early Draft Entrants Create Uncertainty

The worst kept secret when it comes to Bo Ryan's recruiting is that he does not get caught up in chasing after the highest rated high school stars or one-and-done players like a lot of other coaches do.

Wisconsin benefits from that philosophy at this time of the year. Only once in Ryan's tenure has a player left early to play professionally, and that was when Devin Harris was a sure-fire top ten pick in 2005.

Since the end of the season, other college coaches across the country have been awaiting decisions from the top young players about their NBA Draft intentions. As many as 15 sophomores and six freshmen will go through at least the pre-draft process. The "testing of the waters" could last two months, since players who put their name in by April 26 have until June 15 to remove themselves from consideration. Coaches like Roy Williams have already voiced their displeasure over this period of uncertainty.

Like North Carolina last summer, several teams are facing a mass early entrant exodus, sometimes unexpectedly. Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn has thrown his name into the ring along with juniors Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf. Though Flynn has the most potential, he is rumored to be the only one considering a return to the Orange. Southern Cal probably knew freshman DeMar DeRozan was leaving, but the Trojans appear to be losing juniors Daniel Hackett and Taj Gibson as well. Wake Forest may lose two sophomores and a freshman if both Marquis Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu think they can sneak into the lottery.

There is only so much room in the lottery -- 14 picks in fact -- but since rookie NBA contracts are slotted, players who talking about wanting to get picked in the lottery are only speaking in general terms. Being picked 13th as opposed to 18th is not a deal breaker since there is no drop-off in money. But only first-round contracts are guaranteed. That's a deal breaker.

Therein lies the catch. The smart borderline players who are projected as later first-rounders or worse will not hire agents, leaving open the possibility to return to the college. Others will just dive right in and sign an agent because they see a golden opportunity with this year's weaker draft class.

Over the past few years, an increasing number are declaring for the draft just to get feedback on what they need to work on to get drafted a year from now. Think Maryland's Greivis Vasquez. Someone like Kentucky's Jodie Meeks may feel their value is at an all-time high. But thanks to the economy believe it or not, this year's batch of players might not get as much value out of the process as their predecessors, according to Draft Express president Jonathan Givony:

"With no NBA pre-draft camp and fewer private workouts for non-lottery prospects being conducted due to budget restrictions, testing the waters may not have the same luster it did in years past."
Luckily for Arizona, which has already lost juniors Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, sophomore point guard Nic Wise may live up to his namesake by not hiring an agent. But the fans and coaches at places like Georgia Tech, Florida, Gonzaga, UCLA, Notre Dame, not to mention Ohio State (Evan Turner), Kentucky (Patrick Patterson) and Oklahoma (Willie Warren), have that anxious feeling, like waiting around for a sad phone call. They must envy programs like Memphis and Louisville, where losing a Tyreke Evans or Earl Clark was a foregone conclusion.

Some schools can reload. Wisconsin cannot. That is why it is a blessing and a curse to recruit the way the Badgers do. When I remember Harris' days in red and white, however, I think it might be worth the occassional anxiety.

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