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Elliott: Leaving Early Can Be Fruitless

June 25, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT ( , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

For all the talk about someone else stepping in and making sure college basketball players stay in school, it appears NBA general managers and scouts sent the loudest message Thursday night during the league's annual draft.

Of the 42 players who declared early for the draft and stayed, 16 (or 38 percent) went undrafted, and presumably will continue their careers in the developmental league or overseas.

Could be worse. It's been said that Faulconbridge, Australia has the most ''equitable climate in the world'' year-round. Welcome to the land down under.

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Louisville's Terrence Jennings gambled on leaving early for the draft - and it backfired.

Anyway, what to make of that rather staggering number?

By my count, that means those 42 early entrants, combined with countless seniors and a host of foreign players (three of which were drafted in the top seven), were vying for 60 spots. Of those 60, only half were guaranteed any money, as the NBA doesn't guarantee contracts for second-rounders.

That's a lot of guys for a relative few spots. How does that saying go? If you know there's a fool in the room but you can't find him, it may well be you.

To be sure, though, it's not all laughable behavior. Some of these players graduated early, likely had no desire for graduate classes, and decided to give the NBA a shot before getting on with life's work. Others were probably on the other end of that spectrum - bad grades, little chance of making them good enough to qualify. Of course, some just played the one year because of the league's requirement that they wait a year to enter the draft. Some just think a whole lot of themselves. And, finally, some just plain acted on bad advice.

Each underclassmen who makes himself eligible for the draft has the opportunity to showcase himself in front of scouts and get a gauge of where - or if - they'll be drafted. They then have the chance to remove their names from consideration prior to the draft. Those who do often get an idea of what they need to work on to make sure they're not biting their nails for the next draft.

But there sure were some puzzlers among this group, including Roscoe Davis. You may remember the name. He was slated to arrive at West Virginia University along with Truck Bryant, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones

Davis was academically ineligible and bounced around before winding up at Midland (Texas) Junior College last season (junior college transfer Demetrius Proby eventually took his spot at WVU).

One NBA Draft blogger, who seemed to have some credibility, looked at some of the questionable early entrants and offered reasonable explanations on their decisions. His stance on Davis - ''not wasting my time.''

There were two actual Big East players who entered early and weren't drafted in Notre Dame's Carleton Scott and Louisville's Terrence Jennings, both juniors.

Scott's statistics were pedestrian - he was the third-leading scorer for the Irish - but he finished his degree prior to his senior season after sitting out his first year in South Bend, and thus, had a year of eligibility remaining. Jennings never averaged 25 minutes or 10 points a game for the Cardinals, but declared himself ''ready for the next level'' and hired an agent on May 3.

It must have been a long night.

Jennings can go back to Louisville and take all the classes he needs. But as far as him ever playing a meaningful game inside the KFC Yum! Center. Well, yuck.

If you declare for the draft and hire an agent, you sacrifice your college eligibility and, presumably, a big chunk of your adoration if you go undrafted. (And let's face it, aside from maybe a new car, what else do big-time college athletes have?)

All of this has to make you feel good about WVU's Jones, who, for a time declared for the draft but did not hire an agent. He later announced he was returning to Morgantown for his senior season. Clearly, when he looked at the numbers he was up against, he said to himself, 'I'm not the fool.' And he left the room.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at

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