On Monday night, Russ Smith won a national title.
He didn’t play his best game — in fact, he played one of his worst — but thanks to Peyton Siva and Luke Hancock, Smith got a ring.
By the time that Smith had finished meeting with the media and celebrating with his team, it was Tuesday, which meant that, according to the NCAA’s rules, he had all of a week to make the biggest decision of his life: whether or not he would enter his name into the NBA Draft.
Now, first things first: the NCAA’s deadline — which always coincides with the start of the spring signing period — means absolutely nothing. It’s a worthless deadline. The NBA’s deadline for entering the draft in April 28th, and since there is no more “testing the waters”, entering the draft means that a player is off to the NBA.
In other words, Smith has about three weeks to make the biggest decision of his life, but the problem is that with the way the system is structured, Smith isn’t going to be getting feedback directly from NBA teams. He has to hear it second had through his head coach, or trust that the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, a panel of executives from 20 NBA teams, is giving them worthwhile information.
But there’s a problem with that process as well. Players aren’t going to be drafted off of a consensus opinion or off of a polling of where they stand on draft boards.
Guys like Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo don’t have much to worry about. They’re getting picked in the first round, the only question ends up being where. The players that are scooped up at the end of the first round, however, do have a reason for concern. If they leave and they do’t get a guaranteed contract, they end up potentially wasting their eligibility for nothing more than a shot to play their way onto a summer league roster.
The guys in that 20-30 range get their guaranteed contract because there is one team that falls in love with their skill set. Or their potential. Or their ability to shoot. It’s not a popularity poll, it’s whether or not a team believes that player is the right fit. And they won’t know whether or not they are the right fit or have a team willing to use a late first pick on them unless they have a chance to work out with the NBA teams and get a feel how certain front offices value them.
But these kids can’t do that.
They can only guess what will happen. And it may be a partially-educated guess, but it won’t be one do with all the information that can be gathered.
Because these coaches didn’t want to be left in limbo while their stars were out flirting with the NBA. They wanted to know whether or not they had a spot to fill during the late signing period. They didn’t want to have to wait until late June to find out whether or not a player was going pro.
And as a result, it forces kids like Russ Smith to have to make tough, rushed decisions that can have a massive impact on their future.
The NCAA has a lot of dumb rules, but I’m not sure there are any that are worse than this.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.