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News » NBA needs to end foolish age restriction

NBA needs to end foolish age restriction

NBA needs to end foolish age restriction
It wasn't just Alabama and Auburn that got shut out of Thursday's NBA Draft.

How about the entire Southeastern Conference? Thursday marked only the fourth time in the past 25 years that the SEC has been completely left out of the first round of the NBA Draft.

That recruiting PR disaster comes on the heels of an NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic in which neither team had a player on its roster from an SEC school.

But before we beat up on the SEC, look closely at the way Thursday's NBA Draft went. One third of the firstround selections did not attend so-called major NCAA conference programs (similar to the NBA Finals, where only seven of 28 players - 25 percent - attended BCSconference schools).

In fact, in Thursday's draft, 13 of the 60 players drafted did not attend col-

lege at all.

Which raises the question: how necessary is college experience to playing in the NBA ?

Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, wonders that, too.

Last month, Cohen wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern and to the NBA Player Association asking them to repeal the minimum age limit for NBA


In the 2005 collective-bargaining agreement, the NBA and the players' union instituted a rule that said NBA players had to be 19 years old and one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft.

Stern was quick to respond that the NBA ''is not about the NCAA.''

''This is not an enforcement of some social program,'' Stern said. ''This is a business decision by the NBA . We like to see our players in competition after high school.''

Which, it seems to me, is exactly Cohen's point. If the NBA is all about business, then how does such a business justify restricting someone's right to work? Go back to the NBA finals, where four of the best American-born players on the floor - the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, the Magic's Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis - went straight from high school to the NBA .

That's not to say attending college can't help a player develop. But even college coaches who once supported the idea of requiring players to go to college for at least one season are starting to change their point of view.

''I initially thought making kids go to school was a good thing,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said recently. ''But it can be abused.''

And it can wind up hurting the college program because of the current NCAA APR system, which requires a show of players making academic progress toward a degree. Too many ''one and done'' players can cost a team scholarships as well as postseason play.

Players are getting smarter. Why go to class when you can go to Europe? Brandon Jennings bypassed college by playing last season in Europe and was rewarded as the 10th pick in the first round, by the Milwaukee Bucks. This coming fall, 6-foot-11 Jeremy Tyler of San Diego announced he intends to skip his senior year of high school to play in Europe for two years, to prepare for his shot at the NBA .

Next year could be a big year for ''one and done'' players in college, particularly in the SEC. A number of this year's incoming freshmen already are on NBA Draft boards, particularly the Kentucky duo of former LeFlore star DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. Others who might have gone in the first round this year had they been eligible: Derrick Favors, who signed with Georgia Tech, and Avery Bradley, who signed with Texas.

The NBA should work with the NCAA to adopt Major League Baseball's rule and make everyone coming out of high school eligible for the draft. Anyone who is not drafted, or those who don't like where they are drafted, can then choose to attend college. But once enrolled, they can't be drafted by an NBA team for three years.

That way the NBA gets its ''proven'' product, and the NCAA gets athletes who actually have to make a commitment to be college students.

And everybody gets a better product, all the way around.


Ray Melick's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Write him at rmelick @bhamnews.com . Join the conversation with Ray by reading his column and commenting in his X's and Uh-oh's blog at blog.al.com/ ray-melick/

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: June 30, 2009


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