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It’s beyond time for college basketball to return to NBA’s early entry calendar

Apr 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

Jerami Grant AP

In 2011 the NCAA made changes to its early entry deadline, moving away from the NBA calendar. With some coaches citing the fact that their roster was in a state of flux during the spring thanks to the NBA’s system, the NCAA moved its early entry withdrawal date to the day before the start of the spring signing period. With that being the case, the general line from supporters was that coaches would know who they’d have back before collecting those final signatures heading into the summer.

However what was seen as a victory for coaches does little to help those who need the assistance the most: the players and their families looking to collect the information needed to make a wise decision.

With this move the option of “testing the waters” was essentially eliminated, with the amount of time a player, his coach and family have to evaluate their options depending largely upon when the season comes to an end. For a player on one of this year’s Final Four teams, accounting for the weekend the earliest they’d be able to truly get going was April 7, a mere eight days ahead of the withdrawal deadline. And with the amount of information that’s out there, some of it inaccurate, going with the NBA’s calendar would be more beneficial to the players and their families.

Consider the example of Washington freshman Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss had a solid season for the Huskies, averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. And according to a report from Christian Caple of the News-Tribune on April 9 the freshman and his family were considering the option of entering this year’s NBA Draft. Ultimately Williams-Goss decided to return to Washington for his sophomore season, but a quote from his father in the story was particularly eye-catching.

“I didn’t anticipate it,” Virgil said. “And my thing is, you’re only as good as your last game, so I never really put a ton of thought into it. But as the season progressed and it was over and everyone else’s season ended, compare him to the other top point guards in the country, he’s right there.”

While that certainly sounds good, wouldn’t Creighton’s Doug McDermott be the clear top choice if NBA executives were using numbers to determine who they’d draft? It should be noted that Williams-Goss and his family were awaiting more information from the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee at the time of that story, and it’s likely that what they were told impacted the final decision.

Or what about Syracuse’s Jerami Grant? Grant’s decided to leave Syracuse after two seasons to enter the 2014 NBA Draft, and in a story written by Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated his father Harvey (who played more than a decade in the NBA) was quoted as saying the family “had no idea” where Jerami would be picked. These are just two examples where using the NBA deadline would help, and in the case of a player who’s set on at least “testing the waters” there would also be the opportunity to go through a couple workouts and truly understand what their prospects are.

And some programs are advising their players to go by the NBA calendar when making these decisions, something Arizona head coach Sean Miller pointed out during the press conference in which Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson announced their intentions to go pro.

“It’s the most meaningless date in college sports,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s almost like a ploy. … April 27th is the only day that matters.”

Of course there will be counter arguments, one of which surrounds recruiting which was the impetus for the rule change back in 2011. But how often are there true surprises when it comes to a player making the decision to turn pro? While many like to hang onto what happens during the NCAA tournament as the be-all and end-all to NBA draft “stock” and whether or not a player should leave school, the fact of the matter is that NBA franchises have been watching prospects all season long. There aren’t many secrets by the time March rolls around.

When it comes to accounting for possible early departures on the recruiting trail, this is something programs have to account for well before the spring. There are evaluations days during the season (130 for the coaching staff as a whole) for programs to send someone out to look at a recruit, meaning that moves can be made as a current player’s chances of going pro strengthen.

And for the folks who’d argue about what “testing the waters” would do to the academic side of things, how does the amount of missed class time in March help “student-athletes” academically?

The move away from the NBA’s calendar was one that didn’t do much to help the prospects of players who need as much information as possible in order to make the “right” decision. Sure it helps coaches to know what they’ll be working with, but when the deadline is just one day ahead of the start of the spring signing period how much of an aid is it? It’s time to move back to the NBA calendar, because that’s what some programs are already going by.

And in a system that claims to be about helping the players, wouldn’t it be most helpful to make sure they have as much information as possible before making a life-altering decision such as this? Yes.