It appears that schools like Indiana and Wake Forest have not wasted their time in recruiting Greg Oden. Nor have Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke wasted their time in recruiting Brandan Wright. It looks very unlikely that the high-powered class of 2006 will have the opportunity to go straight to the NBA.
According to reliable sources with knowledge of negotiations between players and owners about the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, there is a plan on the table right now that would require a player to be either 20 years old or to have played two years of college basketball before he can be eligible for the NBA draft.
According to sources, both the players and management would like to see the limit implemented. The players union feels that veteran players are being squeezed out of the league because it is cheaper to pay rookies to fill out the end of the roster than to have veterans fill out the end of the roster. Management, of course, is concerned about maturity issues, particularly off the court, with players coming straight into the NBA out of high school.
Without a doubt, if an age restriction for the draft is indeed instituted, it will make for some powerhouse recruiting battles between the country's top college basketball programs for the country's top prep basketball prospects.
An age restriction on the draft should only help the rich get richer in the college ranks. Most every player that would have been a potential draftee will more than likely attend a university with an elite basketball program.
You could even have situations where high-powered AAU teammates such as Greg Oden, Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr. go to the same college. Or Tywon Lawson and Kevin Durant decide to play together in college.
Then again, you have a school like Charlotte who has already secured a commitment from Michael Beasley. Most observers assumed this commitment was more for show since Beasley looked like a likely candidate to jump straight to the NBA. But now if Beasley sticks to his early commitment, it could swing his teammate Nolan Smith to join him at Charlotte.
In an Albuquerque Tribune article last week, NBA scouting director Marty Blake proclaimed that 26 European players and 5 or 6 high school players would enter the 2005 draft. The number of high school players entering the draft, however, could be much higher now that word of a possible age restriction has spread.
Given the new information, look for a large number of high schoolers to enter their name into the draft, not hire an agent and then explore their draft status during that period between May 14 and June 21
A player must enter his name into the draft by May 14. He then has until June 21 to withdraw his name from the draft, which is slated for June 28. If he has not hired an agent, he can maintain his amateur status if he does withdraw his name.
Gerald Green, Louis Williams, Monta Ellis and Andray Blatche are locks to enter the draft. Other possible high school players entering the 2005 draft include Calvin Miles, Brandon Rush, Shawne Williams, Richard Hendrix, Josh McRoberts, Martell Webster, Julian Wright, Keith Brumbaugh, Micah Downs, Amir Johnson, Vernon Goodridge and Davon Jefferson.
Also on the bargaining table is the extension of rookie contracts to five years with a three to five percent salary increase. Veteran salaries would then be set at four years.
A potential twist in this situation is that if an agreement between the players and management is reached before the end of the season, an age restriction of some nature could possibly be enacted for this year's draft.
Certainly after watching the NHL's saga, the NBA wants very much to come to an agreement before a possible lockout over the summer. If there is a lockout, the 2005 draft would take place under existing rules.
Word has it that the player reps in the union are advising all players to prepare for a lockout over the summer that under a worst case scenario could last through Christmas.
It is difficult to believe, however, that the NBA would allow negotiations to prolong to the point of disrupting the beginning of the season.