Big East Commissioner Says Some NBA Hopefuls Should Skip College

College isn’t necessarily the best option for every athlete interested in a National Basketball Association career, Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman said.

Ackerman, the former head of the NBA women’s league, echoed comments made last week by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who told ESPN it’s in the best interest of top prospects to join the NBA Development League rather than play a season in college.

Players must be a year out of high school and 19 years old to join the NBA. New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that he’d like to raise the age to 20. While the current scenario has created what’s known as “one and done” college careers for elite players, Ackerman says that’s not the best choice for everyone.

“If they’re interested in making money, they can go to the D-League, they can go to Europe,” Ackerman said. “You always have that option and that might be a better option, particularly for a player who isn’t all that revved up about being a student.”

Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings was among the few top prospects who did that, opting to play a year in Italy after high school before being selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick of the 2009 NBA draft.

Ackerman said she would support a new arrangement that would create a “two and done” college career for elite prospects.

“Two would be a nice step,” Ackerman said in an interview in New York. “It gives the NBA more time to assess. These are expensive decisions they’re making as to what players to draft, so this gives them one more year under the bright lights of the NCAA tournament.”

Age Requirement

Any change in the NBA’s age requirement would have to be negotiated in collective bargaining by the league and its players, whose union currently is searching for a new head following the firing of Executive Director Billy Hunter in February 2013. Among the issues sure to arise would be that a higher age would mean one less year of earning potential for players, particularly hurting their more lucrative second or third pro contracts.

“The one-and-done is tough on our schools,” said Ackerman. “They manage, they work around it and accept it as a fact of life, but if they had two-year commitments it would be better for them in myriad ways.”

The Big East, which 54-year-old Ackerman joined last June, is now a 10-team league after the non-football playing schools left the conference last year, taking the name with them. The league has no current plans to expand, though it “might happen some day,” Ackerman said.

Men’s Tournament

The men’s basketball tournament runs March 12-15 and continues to be at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a location that will continue “well into the next decade,” Ackerman said.

“It’s really in our DNA to be in New York,” she said. “That’s where our presidents want to be and we’re locked in so that’s a plus.”

With Creighton, based 1,245 miles from New York in Omaha, Nebraska; Butler (716 miles away in Indianapolis), and Xavier (641 miles away in Cincinnati) joining the league, the average distance Big East fans would have to drive to attend the tournament is 482 miles. That’s an average of 70 miles farther away than the 16 schools were in the previous league.

The tournament also will be missing some of the more boisterous fan bases it used to enjoy. Connecticut stayed in the old league that is now known as the American Athletic Conference, while Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“It will never be like it was when we had all those teams in there, but it’s still the Big East Tournament and it has a great future,” Ackerman said. “If any of those fans would like to come to the Garden, we’d be more than happy to have them.”

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