The NCAA’s new early entry deadline is horrendous

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Exactly one week from today will mark the official start to the college basketball offseason.

The Final Four will have concluded, the coaching carousel will be in full swing and the exodus of college talent to the NBA will be … nearly over?

What? Why?

Exactly one week after the official start of the college basketball offseason we get the NCAA’s official deadline for declaring for the NBA Draft. That’s right. As of April 10th, any player that wants to keep their collegiate eligibility intact will have to have officially withdrawn their name from consideration for the NBA Draft.

Think about that.

April 10th. More than two and a half months before the actual draft takes place. Do you know how much changes in two and a half months? Do you know the swings that a prospect can make as a result of his interviews and his individual workouts and his performance at the combine?

As recently as 2009, players were allowed to declare for the draft and continue working out for NBA teams until 10 days before the draft actually takes place. That’s mid-June. That gives them more than enough time to make the correct decision regarding their future.

The past two years, that deadline was pushed back until early May. And while early May only gave the athletes little more than a week to try and gather all the information they can about their future, at least they were able to get actual feedback from actual NBA personnel.

Not so anymore. Jonathon Givony explains:

Since the NCAA bars third parties (even family members) of college players from reaching out to NBA teams to discuss their draft stock and the NBA itself has strict no-contact rules regarding the way teams can communicate with players who are not officially draft-eligible (before the early-entry list is released in early May), the only way an underclassman can gather information about his draft stock is through his college head coach. Furthermore, the head coach is only allowed to talk with the principal basketball operations executive from each team (ie: the general manager), according to NBA rules, and the underclassman may not participate in or be present during any such conversation.

Yes, the players do get a chance to hear from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, but that group is extremely cautious with the information they provide — you don’t want to tell a kid he is a first-round lock just to see him go undrafted — and they are giving out that information almost three months before the draft takes place.

Once again, the NCAA is screwing over their players. The official party line for this change, according to the NCAA, “to help keep student-athletes focused on academics in the spring term and to give coaches a better idea of their roster for the coming year before the recruiting period is closed.”

Academics. Right. Because big-time basketball teams don’t spend the majority of March on the road, be it to play in their conference tournament or the NCAA tournament.

No, the reason that this change was made — the reason that the NCAA is ok with making the most important decision in the lives of these athletes as difficult as possible — is the second part of that quote.

“To give coaches a better idea of their roster for the coming year.”

The coaches were tired of finding out in mid-June that they would be losing one of their best players. They were tired of having to scrounge through the rubble of that comprises the eligible, uncommitted players at that point in the year. In simple terms, these coaches didn’t want to make their jobs harder by trying to help the players under their direction make the correct decision regarding the NBA.

That’s abhorrent. It’s inexcusable. As John Calipari told the Sporting News last spring, “They’ve done their good for college basketball. This should be about, ‘How can we help these kids make a good decision?'”

Forcing them to decide on April 10th is not the answer.

But, technically, April 10th is not the last day that a player can declare for the draft. It’s the NCAA-mandated withdrawal deadline. The NBA’s early-entry deadline is April 29th, which means that as long as the player is quietly looking into draft standing, he has an extra 19 days to officially decide.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t complain if every single underclassmen considering entering the NBA Draft waited until the April 29th deadline to surprise their coach with the good news.

Here’s the complete NBA Draft timeline, from the gentlemen over at Draft Express:

April 3: NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee Application Deadline
April 6: NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee Response Deadline
April 10: NCAA Early Entry “Withdrawal” Deadline
April 29: NBA Draft Early Entry Eligibility Deadline (11:59 pm ET)
May 3 or May 4: NBA Draft Early Entry Candidates Released
May 30: NBA Draft Lottery
June 6-8: NBA Combine/Pre-Draft Camp (Chicago)
June 18: NBA Draft Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline (5:00 pm ET)
June 28: 2012 NBA Draft

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.