The youth movement in the professional ranks has taken a toll on the college game. The NBA draft last week had 42 early entries selected, including seven foreign players, out of 57 picks.
Kwame Brown, a 6-foot-11 forward from Glynn Academy, made history when the Washington Wizards made him the first high schooler to be selected first overall in the draft. The only college senior taken in the top 10, Duke”s Shane Battier, wasn”t taken until the sixth pick by Vancouver.
A total of four high school players went in the top eight, and other than Battier, every player selected was still eligible for at least two more years of NCAA basketball. Just four selections of 31 in the first round completed four years of college.
“I”m sure it will” hurt NCAA basketball, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “Kids are bypassing college. We have to adjust and deal with it. It”s not a positive thing.”
In addition to the mass exodus of eligible players, the college game also lost a great deal of height. In one of the most impressive classes of big men, the five players in the top ten who were at least 6-foot-11 were also the five who did not play a single game in college. The rest of the first round saw another seven early entries of 6-10 or above abandon their collegiate career.
The trend of leaving college early or skipping it altogether changes some strategy for college recruiting. Michigan assistant Chuck Swenson said there is a risk of spending too much time on a high school player who could potentially go straight to the NBA.
“I think you have to realize there are two or three guys (you”re recruiting) who may never enter college,” Swenson said. “We”re going to be careful with who we recruit.”
Another factor for college programs to consider is that good players may stay in school for just one or two years before turning pro.
“That puts an emphasis on intelligent recruiting,” Swenson said.
This past year, Michigan recruited the seven footer, Tyson Chandler, who was selected No. 2 in the draft last week. Michigan also lost freshman guard Jamal Crawford when he was the eight player chosen in last year”s NBA draft.
Two of Amaker”s recruits from Seton Hall were also selected in the first round last week. Eddie Griffin, who played just one year with the Pirates, was selected by New Jersey with the seventh pick and then traded to Houston.
“Eddie”s a talented kid. I think you can”t ask for anything better than (being a top 10 choice and playing in Houston). He”s with a Michigan coach, so it can”t be all bad,” Amaker said, referring to the Rockets” head coach Rudy Tomjanovich a former All-American at Michigan in 1970.
Sam Dalembert, a 6-foot-11 center, went 26th overall to Philadelphia after two years at Seton Hall.
As an assistant at Duke, Amaker helped in the recruiting of Battier, who, unlike Griffin and Dalembert, got his degree and won the Naismith Award as the best player in college basketball.
With recruits deciding not just between different schools, but between college and the pros, Amaker is still going to approach players with the same plan as before.
“We”re going to present our program and our school,” Amaker said. “We”re going to attract kids who want to be a part of college.”