Most of my 2003-04 preseason All-America team has declared for the NBA draft. It's a good thing I didn't post my original list!
Three big college stars who led their teams to the Final Four -- Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Marquette's Dwyane Wade and Texas' T.J. Ford -- have bid college farewell. And they've said so-long to places on my preseason All-Rolls Royce team.
Other candidates for my All-America team have likewise entered the NBA draft: Georgetown forward Mike Sweetney, Mississippi State forward Mario Austin, Georgia guard Jarvis Hayes, Oregon point guard Luke Ridnour and Minnesota forward Rick Rickert.
Monday (May 12) was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the June 26 NBA draft (the official early-entry list comes out Thursday). June 19 is the deadline for underclassmen who have entered the draft to withdraw from it (a player has this option only if he doesn't retain an agent). The drawing to determine the order of the NBA draft lottery takes place May 22.
For Ford, Austin and Ridnour, there's no going back. Each player has signed with an agent. In the cases of Ford and Austin, that's amazing to me, because both players previously spoke of returning to school. Texas and Mississippi State fans have to be especially disappointed.
Other underclassmen who have declared include Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh, Central Michigan center Chris Kaman and these guards: Notre Dame's Chris Thomas, Alabama's Maurice Williams, Hawaii's Carl English, Marshall's Ronald Blackshear and Washington's Doug Wrenn (Wrenn had transferred from UConn to Washington). Kentucky forward Marquis Estill had a fifth year of eligibility available but decided to enter the draft.
The NBA draft is more and more focused on potential. At the next level, less and less do we see players ready to make an instant impact. It's potential, potential, potential, baby! Some players make a mistake and stay in the draft, getting bad advice from their posse and friends. Only time will tell.
On the other hand, you can't blame players for testing the water to discover their draft status. And with the way Anthony, Ford and Wade have seen their stock rise, you certainly can understand their decisions. They have to take advantage of the situation when they can make the megadollars. What happens if they suffer an injury in college? Look at what happened to Miami running back Willis McGahee. Yes, he still was drafted in the first round, but who knows what will happen to him in the future.
Anthony was sensational in leading Syracuse to the school's first national championship. He had the best Final Four ever by a freshman and was the nation's premier diaper dandy all season long. Anthony is a flat-out superstar who can perform on the big stage. He's ready for the NBA.
You can't blame players for testing the water to discover their draft status.
Ford is a brilliant floor leader, a penetrating wizard who won most of college basketball's player-of-the-year awards. The Longhorns' point guard will have to improve his outside shot, but he has the ultra-quickness and penetrating ability that will make him a lottery selection.
I really believe Wade will excel at the NBA level. He has scoring ability, great legs to run in transition and explosiveness. He will be a terrific scorer on the wing. Anthony, Wade and Ford gave their all in leading their teams to New Orleans for the Final Four. They're classy kids, and now they march on to the next level.
As for my preseason All-Rolls Royce team, it's back to the drawing board...