Quantitative Analysis Of Early Entry Decisions: Part I

Early entrants by the numbers.

The deadline for early entrants to withdraw from the 2011 NBA Draft passed on Sunday night, ending two weeks of speculation on the futures of many of college basketball’s prized players. Around this time every year, it is common to read plenty of discussion on the merits of the decisions to stay or go. Without fail there are always a handful of players who decide to stay in the draft who get reamed because of their limited draft buzz. This season there appeared to be more of these fringe prospects declaring early because many of the projected lottery picks decided against testing the draft waters. The common consensus is that the influx of these borderline guys has made a weak drafter even weaker.

Despite the trend of top players staying in school, the overall number of early entrants for the 2011 NBA Draft is very similar to what we have seen in previous years. In total, 40 of the 61 current Division I players who declared opted to hire an agent and stay in the draft — a number that is actually smaller than last season’s figure of 48. However, there was a large decrease in the number of players who decided to test the waters, from 78 in 2010 to the 61 this year. Since the pool of those who stayed in has been relatively constant over the years, I decided to take a look at what has happened to those early entrants in an effort to quantitatively analyze whether or not the players hoping to be drafted this season made a quality decision or not.

To accomplish this task, I gathered lists of all the early entrants for the three drafts since 2008. For the purposes of this post, I’m assuming that the goal of each early entrant is to be drafted. The second part of this series will focus on the goal of actually playing in the NBA. For the first part, then, the results are pretty telling of why players decide to leave. On average, early entrants were drafted 75% of the time over the last three years. Essentially, players have a 3 in 4 chance of being drafted, or a 1 in 4 chance of going undrafted. Those are pretty nice odds for a borderline guy to consider, but they do not tell the whole story. Read more of this post

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The Name On The Court

Was Jim Larranaga's tenure and success at George Mason enough for a court-naming honor? (AP Photo)

It wasn’t until I became a college hoops fanatic that I learned there was a post-career honor that rises above even the retiring of a number. In this sport, the truly transcendent figures are rewarded for their success with a court-naming ceremony. Though the biggest coaching legends — Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp and North Carolina’s Dean Smith — have entire arenas named after them, bestowing a coach with a court is still so rare that is represents the pinnacle of coaching honors. After all, unlike jersey numbers, there is only one court at a school; the honor can only be given to one person, and it is more or less¬†irreversible.

Typically, a court is named for a coach who has spent most of his coaching career at the school while winning games (one might say tenure is only guaranteed through winning). That alone is not enough, however. In most cases, a coach must have elevated the program to heights unseen before his tenure. There are exceptions, of course, the most glaring of which might be the founder of the game himself, Dr. James A. Naismith. The inventor of basketball actually had a losing record before stepping down as the head coach at Kansas, but in this case, I think most would agree a pass is acceptable.

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Little Brother Leaving Liberty Not A New Phenomenon

Evan Gordon spent two years at Liberty before transferring to a bigger program, like Seth Curry before him. (AP Photo)

During the second and third weeks of the NCAA Tournament, much of the roster and coaching changes occurring at mid-major schools across the country tend to go unnoticed. After all, most folks covering the sport rightly have their attention tuned to the action that is still happening on the court. One of the more interesting player moves that was announced during this time was Evan Gordon’s decision to transfer out of Liberty. Though players transfer all of the time, Gordon’s was unique because of how eerily similar his situation was to that of another former Liberty baller, Seth Curry.

The most glaring connection between the two guards is that they both have older brothers collecting paychecks in the NBA. Stephen Curry, the former Davidson star, and Eric Gordon are rising young players in the League, enough so that they represented Team USA alongside some of the country’s best young professionals last summer. Seth Curry started his career at Liberty during the 2008-09 season after being overlooked by high-profile programs. He ended up earning the Big South’s Freshman of the Year award, but he wasn’t a Flame for much longer. After his freshman season ended, Curry announced he was transferring, and he parlayed his first-year success—and no doubt his last name—into an offer from Duke.

Evan Gordon stuck around Lynchburg, Va., longer than Curry. He just completed his sophomore year with the team, leading it in scoring and earning a spot on the All-Big South Second Team. Officially, his decision to transfer was influenced by his desire to play the point guard. At Liberty, that position is dutifully occupied by Jesse Sanders, a versatile guard who was the Big South’s Player of the Year as a junior in 2010-11. At 6-foot-2, perhaps Gordon could see that he’d need some experience running the point in order to have a shot at the next level like his older brother. But when we see that the younger Gordon has landed at Arizona State, it’s hard not to deduce that his successful lineage, much like Curry’s, had something to do with his decision to seek a more high-profile destination.

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Agenda Setting

“It’s easier to judge a voice than it is to use one.”

As an impressionable teenager in the early oughts, it was common for me to shape my entire world view on the lyrics of punk bands. Though these nascent views would prove malleable, no one line has had such a lasting impact on me as the one quoted here. It comes from a song entitled “Banished and Loving It” by The Ghost, a now defunct post-punk band that released a few records to mild acclaim in the early-to-mid-2000s. Back then, I was a self-proclaimed “music reviewer,” and I had the task of judging the art of The Ghost – and more specifically, the words written by frontman Brian Moss. When I heard him passionately belt this line for the first time, time stopped. He was speaking to me, even if he wasn’t.¬†

I learned then that it really is easier to be a critic than to make that which is being critiqued. It’s part of the reason I informally retired from judging music, but The Ghost’s wise words have impacted my life in a far more profound way. They pushed me to never complain, gripe, or dissent without offering a suggestion in return. Those words always remind me that every critique must come attached with a recommendation for improvement. Not just in work, but also in life.

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