The Washington Times Daily - - Sports -

Greg Oden and Kevin Du­rant went 12 af­ter the NBA banned high school play­ers. But a new NCAA pol­icy this sea­son makes me ques­tion the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s con­cern about un­der­class­men, whether they are one-and-done, two-and-through or three-and-flee.

In­stead of con­tin­u­ing to al­low play­ers to “test the wa­ters,” as it has done for years, the NCAA moved up its dead­line to with­draw from the draft and re­tain col­le­giate eli­gi­bil­ity if an agent hasn’t been signed. Play­ers used to have un­til May 8, which gave them an op­por­tu­nity to work out for NBA teams and re­ceive feed­back.

But the pull-out date this year is April 10, three weeks be­fore the NBA al­lows its teams to con­tact early-en­try can­di­dates.

If the NCAA re­ally wanted play­ers to make the most well-in­formed de­ci­sions pos­si­ble, it wouldn’t have elim­i­nated a ma­jor com­po­nent of the fact­gath­er­ing process. Play­ers still can get an eval­u­a­tion from the NBA Un­der­grad­u­ate Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, but those find­ings aren’t nearly as helpful as as­sess­ments from in­di­vid­ual teams.

The NCAA said the change “is in­tended 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.”

Too bad the new pol­icy doesn’t achieve ei­ther goal. It just causes con­fu­sion and forces play­ers into mak­ing less-ed­u­cated de­ci­sions.

North Carolina sopho­mores Har­ri­son Barnes and Ken­dall Mar­shall have un­til April 29 to ap­ply for the draft. That’s the NBA’S dead­line to de­clare and the league couldn’t care less about the NCAA’S cal­en­dar. If Barnes and Mar­shall are con­tem­plat­ing the jump, they’ll still won­der about their stand­ing in mock drafts and work back chan­nels to fig­ure it out; coach Roy Wil­liams still will won­der whether they’re com­ing back and how his re­cruit­ing might be af­fected.

Un­der the NCAA’S new pol­icy, declar­ing early makes lit­tle sense and de­liv­ers no ad­van­tage. Hark­less, for in­stance, now is locked in un­less he with­draws his name by April 10. He could have used the extra 19 days af­forded by the NBA’S dead­line to ex­plore his op­por­tu­nity fur­ther be­fore mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Why force play­ers to com­mit be­fore they can talk to NBA teams or work out for them? Why make it im­pos­si­ble to test the wa­ters un­der any cir­cum­stances any­more?

“It’s the dumb­est thing ever,” Ken­tucky coach John Cali­pari told ESPN.COM. “It’s stupid. If this is about the kids, then that’s the last thing this is about.” Long­time sneaker ex­ec­u­tive and NCAA critic Sonny Vac­caro added that coaches who voted for the rule “are pre­vent­ing the play­ers from get­ting a chance to see their value.”

The new rule has no teeth, be­cause play­ers still can de­clare af­ter the NCAA’S April 10 date, re­gard­less of what they said ear­lier. But it man­ages to bite play­ers and coaches, any­way, keep­ing the for­mer in the dark while grant­ing no re­lief for the lat­ter.

That’s NCAA mad­ness march­ing on.

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