Mark Emmert open to possibility of allowing D-League players back into NCAA

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Over the last couple of days, NCAA president Mark Emmert has given a series of wide-ranging interviews covering just about ever topic in college sports that you can think of.

But for the purposes of this site, perhaps the most intriguing were things that he had to say about the relationship between college basketball and the NBA.

It’s not a secret that the process for a college kid transitioning to the NBA is less than ideal. The one-and-done rule — which, frankly, is the NBA’s decision to make — creates a situation where it’d difficult for fans to get to know the stars at this level. It also means that the best basketball players in the world last all of five awkward, transitional months on a college court, which is five months more than before but less-than-ideal if we’re talking about actually seeing these kids play like stars.

But there isn’t much that Emmert can do about that.

There is, however, something he can do about the rules surrounding early entry to the NBA Draft. The way the rules are currently structured are terrible for the athletes making the most important decision of their lives. They’re forced to declare for the draft with two weeks of the national title game being over, before NBA teams have really put a great deal of thought into who they like, what position they need to add and where they would be willing to draft a particular player. The NBA Draft’s deadline to declare is at the end of April, which gives some of the borderline draft picks more of a chance to figure out their draft stock, but it’s still less than ideal.

And according to Emmert, he’s open to changing that. From an interview with CBSSports.com:

I think members need to look at the relationship between college sports and professional sports, and I don’t know what this looks like, but allow young men that are playing college basketball, for example, to get a much better sense of the marketplace. Right now, the only way they can really get a clear picture of the marketplace is declare for the draft and step away. Most of our rules say now you’re done. Go over there, you’re finished. Is there a way for those who aren’t going to play in NBA to learn from somebody in the outside world who says, look, you’re not going to play professional ball?

[…]

I’m more than happy to have us all consider what should the model look like in relationship between us and professional sports leagues. OK, if you go play a year in the D-League, does that mean you never, ever come back to college to play? I don’t know. Maybe that’s something we need to think about.

Allowing kids to bounce back and forth between college and the D-League is not exactly ideal, but what if this lead to a situation where a professional team can draft a players’ rights and then stash him back in college? The Spurs have done this quite a bit with European players, why can’t we find a way to do it with college kids as well?

Would that be better for NBA teams than stashing them in the D-League?

Who knows. This may not work for first round picks, who would probably rather cash those guaranteed paychecks while sitting on an NBA bench than come back to college for a year. But what about someone like, say, Spencer Dinwiddie. He left school a year early and was a second round pick by the Pistons. He earned a contract, but he’s played in six games for a team that’s 3-19 while trying to shake off the rust that comes with recovering from a torn ACL.

Would it be better for him and for the Pistons if they retained his rights and allowed him to return to Colorado for a year? And wouldn’t it be better for Colorado if they still had Spencer Dinwiddie?

Who is worse off in that situation?