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Deng a lottery lock, but will he stay at Duke?


April 27, 2004
At Duke, I don't think it was a big shock that freshman forward Luol Deng decided to make himself available for the NBA draft. Deng has decided that he won't sign with an agent, giving himself the option of withdrawing from the draft and returning to Duke.

Luol Deng
Luol Deng is a lock to be an NBA lottery pick ... if he stays in the draft.
There's no doubt that Deng is a first-round lottery selection. The big question is whether he'll change his mind to pursue a national-championship ring and play another season (or more) in an environment like Duke.

Think about what Connecticut center Emeka Okafor did last year. He decided to stay in school for his junior season, knowing that UConn had a legitimate chance at a national championship. That turned out to be a good call as Okafor and his teammates won the national title and cut down the nets in San Antonio.

A sensational student-athlete, Okafor ended up winning the title and graduating ... in three years.

Deng certainly can improve aspects of his game. He must be more consistent with his long-range shot on the perimeter. He also could be better on the defensive side at times.

Deng certainly has a great attitude and work ethic. He would have a special year if he went back to Duke, and he could even be the player-of-the-year front-runner.

Just how high would Deng go in the draft? I don't think there's any doubt that he's one of the premier players available. Stay tuned and see where he ends up. Could he become the first draft choice of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, staying in the state of North Carolina? Interesting possibility!

Duke fans also must be concerned about a decision from recruit Shaun Livingston. Will he throw his name into the NBA draft ring and skip college completely? The early-entry situation has become a ritual every spring. It's sad because a number of these high school kids simply aren't ready and would be much better off attending college.

The draft is all about potential, potential, potential!

I recently spoke to a man who loves basketball, a person I truly admire and respect, NY Daily News writer Dick "Hoops" Weiss. We discussed some of the craziness surrounding the game.

We agreed that there should be a new rule: Immediately after the Final Four, high school and college players should have a one-week period to determine whether they're entering the NBA draft. Then they can't pull their names out once they jump in.

Why should this rule be added? Right now, players are holding up coaches like hostages. What's taking place is incredible. Coaches have no idea what to do in terms of recruiting when players keep them hanging with draft decisions. Right now, players have until May 17 to enter their name into the draft. And they can still withdraw one week prior to the draft.

That's absurd. How do you recruit when you don't know whether your top players are really returning to school?

Another ridiculous rule is the early signing period. Over the years, at various universities, teams have been given mythical status for having the best early recruiting classes, only to see kids declared ineligible or jumping to the pros early.

The early signing period should be eliminated since it's virtually meaningless. A date shouldn't be locked in that early because it often becomes invalid.

The superstar player ends up calling all the shots anyway. Just look at what happened at Louisville, as fans were so excited when Sebastian Telfair signed early. Now he's likely to go to the NBA without playing a minute for the Cardinals.

If coach Rick Pitino didn't sign Telfair early, he might have gone after Rajon Rondo, a highly regarded guard who landed at Kentucky. But once Pitino got a commitment from Telfair, the coach wasn't interested in Rondo, and now Pitino is left out in the cold. Things might have been different if Telfair hadn't signed early.

A lot was made over former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett losing his court case, leaving him out of the NFL draft (along with USC wideout Mike Williams).

I don't want to hear the argument that if this happened in the NBA, high school kids would go to court to force the league to let them play. The court's decision was interesting and could have sent a message that if NBA commissioner David Stern tried to put in a 20-year-old age limit for the draft, it could stand up to legal challenges.

I have great admiration for Stern's ability to globalize the game, showcasing the world's greatest athletes. I believe that his theory of a 20-year-old age limit is a positive. It would help everyone, the college game the pros alike -- more mature players, physically and mentally, would be ready to enter the NBA.

Everyone would win and the kids would have a chance to enjoy those special college years.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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