A change in leadership atop the NBA offers a window to address a long simmering debate over raising the league’s age limit for the NBA Draft. New commissioner Adam Silver last week spoke of pursuing a minimum age of 20 – the equivalent of two years in college - with the thought of bringing a more polished product into the league.
“As I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop as leaders of college programs,” Silver told reporters last week during a media gathering for the NBA All-Star Game. “Ultimately this is a team sport, it’s not an individual sport … from a college standpoint if those teams could have an opportunity to jell, to come together, if those players had the benefit to play for some of these great college coaches for longer periods of time, I think it would lead to stronger college basketball and stronger NBA ball as well.”
The current rule requires players be at least 19 — or one year removed from their high school graduation class — before entering the draft, a stipulation which formed the “one-and-done” craze in college basketball.
Some of the NBA’s best young talent played only one season in college — including last Sunday’s All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving. But players such as Irving, Kevin Durant, John Wall, Derrick Rose and others attended college only because they were required to. Silver wants them to wait an additional year which Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said is a plus for the college game.
“It will prepare some of these kids for the NBA a little bit better,” said Ford, whose best player, Marcus Smart, returned for his sophomore season. “For the big picture, I think it’s very, very good but I understand there has been success with guys going straight into the NBA out of high school.”
Ford would like to see the NBA adopt a plan similar to baseball’s where players are permitted to enter the draft out of high school but if they attend college they must wait until after their junior year to turn pro.
“That’s kind of always been my feel for it,” Ford said. “At least two years is always a positive thing.”
Kansas coach Bill Self, who believes players should be allowed the option of turning pro out of high school, has a different idea.
“There should be a committee or something that would have these kids evaluated and if they didn’t fall within what the committee deemed first-year locks in the draft then I would say those kids have no choice but to go to school,” said Self, who could lose freshmen Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden to the NBA after this season. “I don’t think it’s going to happen often but there are going to be some Durants, LeBrons or something close come along in the future and I really feel like those kids should be able to provide for their families at age 18.”
One-and-done has its benefits. It wouldn’t be a shock if Kansas wins the national championship then has Embiid and Wiggins plucked Nos. 1 and 2 in the draft. The last time the NBA selected players from the prep ranks was 2005 which produced the likes of Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams and Gerald Green. Good players, yes, but none are stars.
“It sure would be nice to have kids two years in school, it would be great,” Self said. “But if kids were allowed to come out of high school, we wouldn’t nearly have as many one-and-dones because the one-and-dones would have been the ones who left in high school. It’s obviously something that needs to be studied.”
McCrea interests pros
University at Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley has been receiving positive feedback on the NBA prospects of senior Javon McCrea.
“He’s generating a lot of interest, a lot of buzz,” Hurley said. “We talked to a lot of people in the league who we are familiar with and he’s definitely on their radar. I expect him to be involved in the pre-draft camp process.”
Indeed, they’ll be little rest for McCrea once the Bulls’ season ends. He’ll likely earn an invitation to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, undergo a series of workouts for teams before the NBA pre-draft Combine held in Chicago in May.
“He’s not going to have a lot of time to recover once the season’s over, it’s a new season starting for him,” Hurley said. “He has to train at a really high level to prepare himself for those camps and do really well.”
It’s been a struggle for our friend Joe Mihalich in his first year at Hofstra where the Pride has dropped eight of their last 10. But their overall eight wins are a one-game improvement from a year ago when Hofstra finished 7-25 overall and 4-14 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Pride have three games left after Wednesday’s home game against Delaware. Reinforcements are on the way in Niagara transfers Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, who are sitting out this year but are already making an impact.
“It’s frustrating because our second team wins every day at practice,” Mihalich told hoops website City of Basketball Love. “That’s a little bit frustrating. They have been terrific, those guys. They work extremely hard every day. They make us better. They are getting better and they make for a good atmosphere.”
St. John’s hopes revived
Just last month while in the midst of a five-game slide, St. John’s aspirations to be included in the field of 68 were at best iffy. Now, after winning nine of 10 including a six-game win streak, the Red Storm (18-9, 8-6 Big East) is making push toward March Madness. Still, they’ll miss shot-blocker Chris Obekpa who is expected to miss two weeks with a right ankle sprain. Obekpa ranks 11th in the country in blocks with 3.2 per game and was becoming more of a presence offensively which corresponds with the Red Storm recovering from an 0-5 start in the Big East. In Tuesday’s win over Butler, former Erie Community College big man God’sgift Achiuwa started in Obekpa’s place, but Orlando Sanchez played more minutes at center.
With all the talk about impact freshmen, key injuries and undefeated teams, Florida, for some reason, has flown under the radar. The Gators haven’t lost since Dec. 2 at Connecticut — a stretch of 17 straight coming into Wednesday’s home game at lowly Auburn — and has been untouched in the Southeastern Conference at 12-0. While the Gators lack a superstar, they make up for it in experience where three of their top five scorers — Casey Prater, Scottie Wilbekin and Patric (cq) Young — are seniors. They’re also sixth nationally in scoring defense. They’re as good as any team in the country.