Not Every Underclassman Found Glory at the NBA Draft

The man to the right showing exemplary cone avoidance skills is Michigan guard Manny Harris. Well, now he's undrafted, searching-for-a-team guard Manny Harris. Harris was one of the more notable names to go through Thursday night's NBA draft, from the perspective of college fans, who didn't hear his name called. College fans will also remember Louisville big man Samardo Samuels, Virginia guard Sylven Landesberg, Vanderbilt big man A.J. Ogilvy and DePaul forward Mac Koshwal. Each of those players also went undrafted. ↵

↵There were also the underclassmen who declared, but had long waits before their names were called. The worst slide of the night belonged to Florida State center Solomon Alabi, who was projected as a first round pick -- and even in a top 20 pick in many cases -- for months. He wound up going No. 50 overall. UTEP forward Derrick Caracter went No. 58 overall. Oklahoma guard Willie Warren slid to No. 54. In all, 11 U.S. underclassmen went in the second round where there are no guaranteed deals. ↵

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↵If you've made it here, to paragraph three, this is probably where you expect me to roll out my best Dick Vitale impersonation. What a terrible mistake these young men have made! They should've stayed in college until they had three degrees! No, that's not my bag. But it does bring me to something of a mini-spat that broke out prior to Thursday's draft between Jonathan Givony of Draft Express and Dana O'Neil of ESPN. O'Neil wrote a piece on former Florida forward Matt Walsh. In short, O'Neil talked about Walsh's draft night experience of declaring early, only to never hear his name called. His NBA career wound up being incredibly brief, playing just two regular season games with the Heat. But you're not going to find Walsh in some gutter. He's gone on to have a nice career in Europe, a career that is still ongoing. ↵

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↵John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus points out that Walsh's career might not be the best example of "oh the horror, you went undrafted!" stories. Gasaway's take is reasoned and he comes to the same conclusion that I do: "Each decision to come out early needs to be evaluated on its own merits. And the decision to stay in school is not always the safe choice." ↵

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↵So while Gasaway and I largely agree, this is where I get back to Givony and his spat with O'Neil. While I hold DX's draft work in high esteem, his response to those touting a stay in school message is basically a cut-and-paste macro rant about players being exploited and playing for free. His response to O'Neil, via Twitter: ↵

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↵⇥Love reading college basketball apologists like @dgoneil1 wax poetic about staying in school on NBA draft day. Randy Foye went back? Really? ... Neither is staying in school & playing basketball for free. Their life, their decision RT @dgoneil1: leaving school early isn't for everyone ↵
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↵Of course, as I asked Givony (and got no reply), that if O'Neil is a college basketball apologist, what does that make him? Does Givony then become an apologist for agents and general managers who need a larger pool of talent to keep their jobs? I'll openly admit that as a college basketball fan, I like to see when talent sticks around because it's generally for the good of college hoops. (Obvious academic misgivings aside.) But I'm also an NBA fan, so this is one of those win in one place and lose in another situations. ↵

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↵But I'd like to cut the "everyone come out early" crowd off at the pass today. Want to cry about the millions lost by Willie Warren, who was allegedly a projected lottery pick last season when playing alongside Blake Griffin? Please, save that mess. Could he have hoodwinked a team into a first-round pick last year? Maybe. Or maybe Warren's bad traits would've been exposed somewhere along the way during last year's draft process. More to the point: If you're a basketball fan -- put agendas aside for a minute -- can you say with a straight face that we'd all be better for Willie Warren being a first round pick last season? Warren's pockets would've benefited, but that's about it. We'd have a team with a wasted first-round pick and a fan base groaning about its disgruntled second-year combo guard. Sometimes these things work themselves out. ↵

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↵And then there are the guys like Craig Brackins. Remember when Brackins was allegedly a lottery pick last season? Today, I'm sure someone will make the dubious argument that Brackins sacrificed some amount of money when he "slid" to No. 21 after last year's lofty projections. Remember, those were hypothetical projections. You can't eat based off of projections. Ask Solomon Alabi about that this morning. ↵

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↵This is not to say staying four years guarantees you some sort of draft success. College hoops cornerstones like Jon Scheyer and Sherron Collins went undrafted on Thursday. And there are players with financial hardship issues that necessitate an earlier-than-ideal entry in the professional world, too. But based on the drops for some players on Thursday, there is an obvious step that needs to be taken: the final date to pull your name out of the draft and be allowed to return to college needs to be pushed back once again. ↵

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↵Leaving players roughly 10 days to gather all the information needed for the biggest decision of their lives simply isn't enough. At that point in the offseason, too many teams are still playing. Even if all teams were out of action, 10 days is a tight window. Bad information leads to poorly informed decisions. Putting aside whether your loyalty leans more toward college basketball or the NBA, it should be widely acknowledged that all sides are better off when players have more time to gather all the facts. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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