The NCAA’s Aug. 3 deadline to withdraw from the 2020 NBA Draft is less than two weeks away and Iowa star Luka Garza doesn’t know what to do.
What he does know is that NBA teams don’t consider him a first-round pick despite his complete and utter dominance a year ago, and that he needs to work on his lateral quickness, perimeter shot and athleticism in order to increase his draft stock.
But that’s not why Garza is torn.
He’s ultimately confused about his future because he’s unsure what this year’s college basketball season will look like — whether it will start on time or in January and whether it will include non-conference games or a reduced league slate.
Honestly, the most significant question for Garza and many of the 40 or so underclassmen that have yet to announce whether they will withdraw is whether there will even be a college basketball campaign.
“It’s really concerning because I have no idea right now what’s going to happen with the season,” Garza said.
“No one does.”
He’s not alone as the unpredictability adds stress to what is already a difficult decision.
“My mind’s so messed up right now,” added Saint Joseph’s standout Ryan Daly. “Because there’s so much uncertainty.”
The NCAA’s withdrawal deadline for those players who have decided to test the NBA waters is Aug. 3, which means that players who don’t announce they are withdrawing by then will not be eligible to play college basketball this season. The NBA pushed the NBA Draft back from June 25 to Oct. 16, while Aug. 17 is now the early-entry deadline and Oct. 6 is the date to withdraw. There’s still no clarity to whether there will be any sort of NBA Combine prior to the draft.
Most of the college basketball coaches I’ve spoken to want to know whether their players in limbo are coming back or not. I get it. They’ve waited this long and want to move forward — whether it’s with or without their stars.
But there’s really no difference between Aug. 3 and Sept. 1.
Aren’t we supposed to be about the players, anyway?
Garza and guys like Baylor’s Jared Butler, Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman, Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, the Illinois duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, and St. Joe’s Daly don’t know what to believe. Garza watches the coronavirus numbers spike in Iowa, Butler checks social media and sees someone say there won’t be non-conference games this season and Daly just flat-out has no idea what to expect.
“The fact is we don’t know if we’re going to have a college season,” Butler said. “It’s scary to have to make such a huge decision like this.”
Garza will be the clear frontrunner for National Player of the Year if he elects to return. Butler will be on a Baylor squad that might start as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Daly wants to finish his career at St. Joe’s, where his dad played and his grandfather coached.
But they are all worried that if they withdraw from the draft, and then the season is canceled, they won’t have many options. They can go to Europe, but who knows what opportunities will exist overseas, not to mention the safety risks that go along with those jobs.
Would pushing the Aug. 3 deadline back a few weeks allow them to make the best decision?
Maybe not, but it certainly can’t hurt.
By then, they’ll know whether there were any hiccups with the pro sports leagues, and more importantly, they’ll be able to see whether college football is able to get off the ground.
And for those coaches saying that they need to know sooner rather than later, the bottom line is they aren’t getting any players — whether it’s in early August or early September — that will be able to help, anyway.
“At some point, I’ve got to know who I’m going to have,” one head coach told me on Tuesday.
But let’s face it: The transfer portal is fairly barren, and good luck trying to find someone from the high school ranks right now who can come in and make an impact. It’s not gonna happen. It’ll be just as tough to bring in an international kid due to travel restrictions and numerous embassies being shut down.
If there’s truly that much of an issue for the college coaches, the NCAA could let them sign someone now and make an exception, allowing the coaches affected to hold a 14th scholarship this season if players like Garza, Butler or Daly opt to return on the hypothetical date of Sept. 1, and then take the hit a year from now and only be able to use 12 scholarships.
“It doesn’t really hurt them just to extend it,” said Daly, who has one year of eligibility remaining at Saint Joseph’s.
“It would definitely help,” Garza added. “The last week has been very stressful mentally thinking about it all. I don’t know what to do.”
That’s why the NCAA should do what’s best for their “student-athletes” and extend the deadline by a month, allowing college players to make the most informed decision possible.