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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Column: Early entry deadline should put players’ priorities first

Everyone wants to know how Brad Beal will be celebrating his 19th birthday.

The NCAA is hastily demanding to hear Beal’s plans by April 10. The NBA stated it can wait a little longer, until April 29. But I’m guessing all of you reading would probably like to learn now.

Will Beal be ringing in another year of life in the Prudential Center on June 28 onstage at the NBA Draft or is he going to be enjoying his birthday in the simpler, less televised confines of his St. Louis home?

Regardless of whether he chooses to return to Florida for his sophomore season or picks the cool, free draft hat and millions of dollars that come with a lottery pick’s rookie contract, Beal is facing a difficult decision.

Unfortunately, he only has another 26 days to make it.

While the NCAA’s early entry deadline this year is an almost criminally unfair eight days after the national championship game, the NBA isn’t doing collegiate underclassmen any favors either with its April 29 cutoff date.

For the first time in recent memory, Beal and other potential draftees will not have the chance to attend any pre-draft workouts with NBA teams or gauge the interest of front offices man-to-man.

Just three years ago, college players were able to remove their names off the early entry list a week before the NBA Draft. Now, they have to make a concrete decision almost two months in advance, leaving essentially no time to test the proverbial draft waters.

The new deadlines are rigged even more than last year’s May 8 date to benefit the NCAA’s future on-court product as well as college coaches, who will get an earlier handle on how their rosters will look next season.

According to NCAA Proposal No. 2010-24, the rule “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.”

Some coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari have made their opinion on the NCAA-first, player-last mentality of the rule perfectly clear.

“It’s the dumbest thing ever,” Calipari told ESPN.com. “It’s stupid. If this is about the kids, then that’s the last thing this is about.”

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After returning to Gainesville from a trip home to St. Louis, Beal stated Sunday night that he intended to take the majority of the month to make his decision.

In the intermittent period between now and April 29 at 11:59 p.m., he’ll probably discuss again his future with the Gators with coach Billy Donovan, who of course had his own publicized flirtation with the NBA’s Orlando Magic in 2007.

Donovan’s return to the college ranks at Florida came a little more than a week after he agreed to on a five-year $27 million contract to become the Magic’s new coach on May 31, 2007. After testing the NBA coaching waters, Donovan was released from his contract on June 6, 2007.

Why is it so difficult to imagine a college player getting even a shred of the same courtesy anytime soon?

Because whether it’s Florida, an NBA team, agents or fans, everyone wants to know as soon as possible what they’ll be getting on Beal’s birthday come June 28.

Contact John Boothe at jboothe@alligator.org.

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