SEC coaches discuss early NBA entries

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Discussion about underclassmen and high school players skipping college to try to make it in the NBA dominated the sporting circles in the middle of June as the NBA Draft approached.

The Southeastern Conference’s summer teleconference on Monday proved it hasn’t subsided. Reporters asked every coach what they thought about the slew of players leaving school early and how that affects their recruiting and college basketball as a whole.

&uot;You’ve got kids who are juniors and sophomores (in high school) they aren’t worried about whether they go to Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU or Kentucky,&uot; said Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes, whose Rebels went to the Sweet 16 last season. &uot;They’re coming there one year to show they can play college basketball.&uot;

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Barnes noted that the early entries don’t really affect his recruiting because his program doesn’t go after the top players in the country.

He focuses on getting the top 50-100 players. He said he likes to develop players and watch them grow.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said the situation has forced him to reevaluate the way he recruits.

&uot;With changes taking place and more high schoolers more than ever getting drafted, some kids you might say ‘This kid isn’t going to college or ‘He’ll only be here one or two years.’&uot;

Meanwhile, Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson takes a different look at the situation. Getting his players into the pros is his goal.

&uot;My job is to do that,&uot; said Richardson.

SEC Outlook

The other topic that coaches dwelled on was how strong the SEC is from top to bottom.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said every team is a potential NCAA Tournament participant. &uot;There’s nobody in there that you can say, ‘They can’t make it,’&uot; said Gottfried.

Richardson said, &uot;From top to bottom, I don’t see any conference that can compare to ours. Much more this year than the past two years. There are no gimmes.&uot;

Most coaches agreed that Kentucky and Florida will be at the top of the league. The Wildacts return Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans, who decided to return to school instead of opting for the NBA.

&uot; Kentucky is a preseason top 5, top 10 team at least,&uot; said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. &uot;With experience and key guys coming back, they really have a shot to be outstanding.&uot;