BOZICH | From March Madness to Early Entry Madness -- a new trad - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | From March Madness to Early Entry Madness -- a new tradition

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Fancy words are secondary today. Better to focus on numbers and history.

The college basketball season has been over for one week, which means there has been time for 871 underclassmen to announce they are taking their talents to the NBA.

Actually, some reports have the number at 29, but the total appears to have jumped by two from the time that I began writing this column. Word is that you should add former Central High School star D'Angelo Russell (who is ready) as well as Justin Anderson of Virginia (probably ready) to the list.

They'll follow the seven University of Kentucky players. Plus two more from the University of Louisville. Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell has delayed his announcement until April 25 in Indianapolis.

My view is that a press conference announcement generally translates into a player leaving early. My suspicion is that Ferrell, a junior, will join Terry Rozier (Louisville) and Aaron Harrison (UK) on the list of guys positioning themselves for a winter in the NBA Developmental League.

And so it goes.

With 12 days until college underclassmen must confirm their intentions to the NBA, chances are the number of departures will be similar to the last three seasons -- 44 players in 2014, 47 in 2013 and 48 in 2012.

You remember Andrew Wiggins. You forget Chane Behanan, LaQuinton Ross or DeAndre Daniels. That was the 2014 early entry class.

You remember Victor Oladipo. You forget Vander Blue, B.J. Young and DeShaun Thomas. That was the 2013 class.

You remember Anthony Davis. You forget Doron Lamb, Fab Melo and J'Covan Brown. That was 2012.

Some are no-brainers. Some are no reason. Only 60 guys are selected. Remember the NBA loves foreign players and a few seniors still hang around to make draft day fun.

Time for the mandatory disclaimer: Every player has unique personal circumstances. If they're ready to go, they should go. If they're absolutely certain they have had enough of playing for tuition, room, board and books, go for it.

Best of luck and good health wishes to every guy.

If Sports Illustrated, the Chicago Tribune or the Los Angeles Times would have called me after my junior year in college, I would have closed my textbooks and fled.

But they didn't.

I never expected them to call. I was flabbergasted to get my first opportunity at the Anderson (Ind.) Bulletin for $130 a week. I pulled the name of that Central Indiana paper from an index card on the Indiana University School of Journalism job board at Ernie Pyle Hall. I didn't ask for mileage money when I drove two hours for the interview (And got the job).

I remember one of the first stories I wrote in Anderson was about this bizarre decision that had the basketball world hyperventilating. Two players declared financial hardship and jumped directly from high school basketball to the NBA.

You remember Darryl Dawkins. You forget Bill Willoughby.

Actually you might remember both guys. Dawkins played 14 seasons in the NBA, earning the nickname “Chocolate Thunder,” from the singer Stevie Wonder while convincing everybody that he was actually a visitor from the planet Lovetron.

Willoughby was nicknamed “Poodle.” He grew up in New Jersey, but most insiders thought he was going to sign with Joe B. Hall at Kentucky. Although the story of his playing career (he failed to score 3,000 points in eight seasons) was never as sexy as Dawkins, the story of the rest of his life is more fitting for his column.

At 44, Willoughby finally finished college. The NBA paid his expenses at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He earned an NBA pension.

Willoughby worked briefly for the league, which asked him to – you guessed it – huddle with young players about the wisdom of jumping to the NBA. He's been working on a book about his experiences. One newspaper report said it should be finished this summer.

Chances are that Willoughby knows the numbers.

Of the 44 guys who left college early last season, 28 were drafted, 18 in the first round.

According to information available at, 30 of the 44 are currently listed as NBA players.

Four -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker (who was injured after 25 games), Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown (undrafted) -- will finish the season averaging double figures.

Only seven others – Jerami Grant, Rodney Hood, Zach LaVine, KJ McDaniels, Mitch McGary, Marcus Smart and T.J. Warren – have averaged at least a half-dozen points per game this season.

Two others – Julius Randle, Joel Embiid – were injured.

The rest listened to all the noise that they were ready for the NBA, even though they were not.

Not that being ready for the NBA is what matters. By the time I got to this final paragraph, Olivier Hanlan of Boston College became the 32nd guy to add his name to the list.

Who's next?

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