- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

SirValiant Brown is taking a gamble widely viewed as basketball suicide.
And he's not alone in the endeavor.
Brown is one of 47 underclassmen and high school players who sacrificed his college eligibility to be in Wednesday's NBA Draft. For many, that's when the stark reality of their decisions will be exposed.
For every first-round draft pick that becomes an instant millionaire, there will be several others left looking for work. Players like George Washington's Brown and Clemson's Will Solomon left school early, ignoring piles of evidence that show they are not ready for the NBA.
"While I have no guarantee that I will be taken in the first round, I
do feel confident that my hard work and determination will lead me to the NBA next season," said Solomon, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who left Clemson after his junior season.
Logic suggests otherwise and that another college season could significantly increase Solomon's NBA marketability. But logic has little to do with wide-eyed NBA fantasies even if their talent and NBA scouts tell another story.
Eleven college players, including American's Patrick Doctor and Kentucky's Keith Bogans, who initially declared for the NBA saw the light and withdrew their names before the NCAA-imposed deadline last week, thus retaining their college eligibility. Another 47 opted to take their chances and forfeited the amateur status. Some, such as Seton Hall's Eddie Griffin and Charlotte's Rodney White, both of whom left after their freshman years, are locks to be first-round picks and will be guaranteed three-year deals for millions.
However, others like the 6-1 Brown and Solomon likely are among the many headed toward basketball limbo: sacrificing their college careers and education for a long shot to make it in the NBA.
"They're just dumb," said Boston Celtics vice chairman Red Auerbach, perhaps the most astute general manager/coach in NBA history. "They shouldn't do it. Even if they are picked in the second round, there is no guaranteed money, and their chances of making it are about 30 percent."
Many players buy into their hype so much that they don't have the option to go back to school.
"Some of them get the idea in their heads they are going to the NBA and stop going to class," Auerbach said. "If they get F's, they can't come back anyway."
The unwritten rule used to be that if someone wasn't a guaranteed first-rounder they would stay in school. But that no longer exists. It used to be that leaving early was a rarity. Ten years ago, 12 players left early, including nine juniors and two sophomores.
After including seven international prospects, 54 players will be available in the NBA Draft as early entries. Only 57 selections will be made in the entire two-round draft, which at one time was almost exclusively for college seniors.
"It can be a combination of academics and listening to the wrong people," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "You can always find someone to tell you that you're ready for the NBA. Ten guys can tell you not to do it, but the 11th might say, 'Yeah, you're ready.' And the player says, 'See, someone said I was ready.' "
And the number of early entries is likely to increase with the NBA Developmental League beginning in eight Southeast cities this coming season, providing a safety net for NBA leftovers.
"Now marginal at best NBA players have alternatives," Williams said. "Now the thinking will be if there are problems in college, they can leave. They can blame the coach or struggle academically and think, 'Hey, I can go to the supplemental league. Why should I study if I can still play basketball?' There has never been a threat like that. I think that is a bigger threat than guys going straight to the NBA."
Some of those who go undrafted will be able to make a good living playing overseas. But the rest will have to find a plan for life with limited prospects and no degree to fall back on.
Brown is not the first to believe he is getting on the superhighway to fame and riches. The ex-GW standout is on a road paved with one-time stars who never reached the golden destination.
"It's a shame in a case like Val's," Williams said. "I thought he had talent. Give him another year or two in college and he might be ready for the NBA."
Said NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake: "I don't know what he's doing. He played in the Chicago predraft camp. He was OK. We would advise him to go back."
It's too late for that now.

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