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Coaches want end to one-year wonders

DESTIN, Fla. — Like many of their peers, the SEC’s men’s basketball coaches want to be done with the one-and-done rule and another NBA draft-related policy they believe are hurting the college game.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive and five of the league’s coaches will form a subcommittee to study the issues and begin dialogue with officials from the NBA and its Players Association, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Wednesday during the second day of the SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.

In the wake of reports that O.J. Mayo received $30,000 in cash and benefits during his lone season at Southern Cal, the SEC coaches hope the NBA will ditch its three-year-old rule that allows players to turn pro following one year on campus. The rule likely will remain through the NBA’s labor agreement that runs through 2010-11.

They also would like the NBA to tighten its deadlines to cut down the amount of time an underclassmen has between declaring for the draft and withdrawing from consideration.

Pearl is in favor of allowing players to enter the NBA out of high school, but believes those who attend school should be required to stay two or three years before entering the draft.

“If you say you’re going to go, go. That’s fine because you don’t want to deny the student-athlete the opportunity to pursue his dream” Pearl said. “But this whole being in limbo of ‘Are you, aren’t you? Will you, won’t you? Put your foot in, put your foot out.’ ...

“The months that exist between the time you declare and when you come back, the potential for rules violations are enormous. It’s just not a good situation.”

Underclassmen must declare for the draft by April 27, but have until June 16 to change their minds and remain to school if they have not hired an agent.

This year 69 underclassmen from U.S. schools declared for the draft, including many with spotty prospects whose chances of being selected by an NBA team next month are slim.

“The trendy thing to do is anybody was throwing their name in. I’m really surprised my son (Steven), who is a walk-on freshman at UT, didn’t declare himself eligible for the draft,” Pearl said. “Because it would have been on ESPN on the Ticker and stuff like that. Why not? Throw it out there. He’s one of the best Jewish basketball players in America.”

Alabama had three underclassmen declare: forwards Alonzo Gee and Richard Hendrix and point guard Ronald Steele, who sat out last season with a knee injury. While Gee has since withdrawn his name from the draft pool, Steele and Hendrix continue to weigh their options.

“It just makes everything hard. The end of the season (arrives in the) middle of March and you’re not going to learn who’s going to be on your roster until the middle of June,” Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried said. “We sat here during the recruiting period with three guys you’re holding scholarships for. You want those guys to make good decisions. But it certainly puts the school in a tough spot.”

Several SEC coaches said the NBA should adopt the NFL’s timetable for underclassmen, who must withdrawal their names from the draft three days after the deadline for entering in order to retain their college eligibility.

“I think pretty quick after the season, here’s the time frame,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “It gives them an opportunity to pursue it, to really get some good feedback. It also helps assure everybody else’s future.”

Besides putting recruiting in limbo, Horn said the current setup presents the additional challenge of keeping a player interested in his academics for two months while he tests the NBA waters.

Gottfried, who will serve on the SEC subcommittee, is hopeful the discussions will lead to change.

“I think our league can help get some momentum. But this rests with the NBA and (NCAA president) Myles Brand,” Gottfried said. “Hopefully, that will be something that’s talked about — trying to find a balance. What’s really good for the student-athlete, but also what’s good for the schools and what’s the right process.

“Right now it’s just too long. It’s just entirely too long.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.