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Ex-UNC star Eric Montross wants NBA to adopt MLB’s draft system

NBA Draft: Eric Montross wants a different system.
Gerry Broome/AP Photo

Around 80 college basketball underclassmen have declared for the NBA Draft. Of that total, 40 have signed with an agent and can’t withdraw to return to school.

There are only 60 draft picks – two rounds of 30.

On mock draft boards, approximately 19 freshmen and two more players one year removed from high school who played overseas have declared for the NBA Draft. Nine more seniors and six more international players are projected in the draft (depending on what day and updated version you’re viewing).

That leaves 24 spots for the overflowing underclassmen. Can’t those college kids do the math?

Eric Montross, an eight-year NBA veteran out of North Carolina who still closely follows the college game as the Tar Heels’ radio analyst, says it’s time for the NBA to adopt the system similar to Major League Baseball.

“The NBA could change it all,” Montross said. “It should be like baseball. If you come to campus, you stay three years. You develop your game and you develop personally from the university experience. The continued improvement is something you won’t regret. I love the guys that come back. You’re not going to get worse.”

The NCAA receives criticism for the one-and-done culture that has overwhelmed college basketball, but it’s the NBA that sets the draft eligibility rules.

In baseball, prospects can sign out of high school – drafted or undrafted. But if they opt to go to college instead of signing, they’re committed for three years before becoming eligible again for the draft. The NBA allows players to declare one year removed from high school.

But one major difference is that minor league baseball has 100-plus years of history. Some players sign large bonus deals, but they don’t earn much money in the season. The NBA’s Development League would have to beef up its compensation to equal minor league baseball.

Montross acknowledges that he speaks from the viewpoint of having returned to North Carolina for his senior year and winning the 1993 national title. The 7-footer was the ninth-overall pick. The team he covers on radio (He also is the Major Gift Director for UNC’s Rams Club)  has benefited greatly the past two seasons from having veteran players.

North Carolina’s 2017 NCAA Championship starting lineup featured two seniors, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, and three juniors, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson. The 2016 NCAA runner-up team was led by two seniors, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Berry and Pinson are returning in 2018.

“I understand some players can sign for significant seven-figure money that is hard to turn down,” Montross said. “It becomes a personal decision. I’d never turn my nose up at someone who decides to leave early.

“But it’s hard for me not see the benefit of returning looking through the lens that was my experience. You can sign for millions those first couple of years, but half of it goes to taxes. I always say to err on the side of going back to school and education.”

Another argument against returning to school is that sometimes players see their stock fall. Montross says that’s a calculated decision the player, his college coach and support group have to research. He adds that NBA teams have the savvy to spot reasons a player’s scoring might be down or another reason his stock fell.

Ultimately, he sticks to the belief that the education path is undervalued.

“Your family’s long-time security hinges on maturing in your formative years and more education,” Montross said. “If you take an 18-year-old kid and you put him on an NBA team with players that are grown men, it doesn’t mix well. They’re going home to their family. They’re not going to Chipotle. That doesn’t mean an 18-year-old can’t do it, but I’m saying it’s tougher than they suspect.

“Your education is never going to set you back. You may not be the basketball player you hoped to be, but you’re going to be a semester or year closer to a diploma that will give you a consistent source of revenue from your job after basketball falls by the wayside.”

Follow Tom Shanahan of FanRagSports.com @shanny4055

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