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Early, but not always often

Underclassmen usually drafted at top or not at all

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Posted: Thursday July 01, 1999 03:23 PM

  Steve Francis (center) declared for the draft after playing only one season of Division I-A basketball. AP

By Ryan Hunt, CNN/SI

NBA commissioner David Stern may be preaching a stay-in-school campaign, but NBA teams don't seem to be heeding his advice.

This year, 27 college underclassmen and high-school players declared themselves eligible for the NBA Draft (not counting the 12 who withdrew their names from draft consideration). Fifteen of them were selected in the first round, including the top five picks - Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom and prep phenom Jonathan Bender.

Since the NBA Draft was trimmed to two rounds in 1989, 95 early entrants have been chosen in the first round. But in the last four years alone, 54 have been first-round selections, including 34 lottery picks.

In that same span, though, 61 went undrafted, including a record 21 in 1997. And another 35 have withdrawn from various drafts in the past five years.

Youth is served
Most early entries in the first round of NBA Draft
Yr Picks Top draftee Pick No.
1996
1999
1998
1995
1997
1994
1982
17
15
13
10
9
9
9
Allen Iverson
Elton Brand
Mike Bibby
Joe Smith
Chauncey Billups
Glenn Robinson
James Worthy
1
1
2
1
3
1
1
 

The beginning of the NBA Draft, though, is where the underclassmen have remained the most popular.

Since 1992, six of the eight No. 1 overall selections have been underclassmen, including this year's pick of Brand by the Bulls.

And the king draft for the underclassmen was 1996.

Nineteen were picked in the first round, including the first seven selections of the draft (Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker and Lorenzen Wright) -- the most to begin a draft.

 
Staying home
Most undrafted underclassmen
Year Number
1997
1996
1998
1999
1992
21
15
13
12
12
Since 1989

In fact, the 1999 Draft marked the third time that at least the first five picks of the draft were underclassmen, joining 1996 and 1995 (Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett).

However, Stern is more concerned with this number -- 45.8 percent of the eligible early entry candidates have been passed over in the NBA Draft since 1989, including 12 this year.

For those players, maybe they should have listened more closely to Stern after all.


 
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