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May 13, 2009

Sonny Vaccaro and Next Month's NBA Draft

Sonny Vaccaro.  You either love him or hate him depending on where you stand in the world of basketball.  There is no secret that Mr. Vaccaro has been fighting the NCAA for longer than most of you have been living.  His power deals with coaches, players and agents over the years have long been documented.  His latest activity has been to try and influence young players to skip college entirely and go to Europe to play until they are eligible for the NBA draft.  This is in direct confrontation to the NCAA (and NBA) rule that requires high school grads to complete one year of college before they can enter the draft.

    

Next month, the basketball world will see if Mr. Vaccaro's plans bear fruit.  Brandon Jennings, an Arizona recruit, opted to play for Virtus Roma in the Italian League this past season rather than play for the Wildcats.  Most of the leg and paperwork to help get Brandon to Italy was done by Mr. Vaccaro, who even helped to get the youngster's mother an apartment over there.  Mr. Vaccaro claims he is getting nothing for doing this.

In an LA Times interview with Kurt Streeter, Mr. Vaccaro is quoted:  "The whole idea of kids like Brandon being forced to go to college when they are ready to make millions of dollars, that's just terrible.  And we are going to have more kids this year seriously considering Europe".

Jennings is in next month's NBA draft.  This past season, he averaged around eight points and a little more than one assist, playing about 18 minutes a game as a reserve.  He feels he will be at least a mid-first round pick.  Now in recent TV interviews, young Brandon has said that playing in Europe was very difficult for a person his age.  If his mother hadn't been there to take care of him, it would have been nearly impossible to cope.

If Jennings is a first-round pick, the door could instantly swing open for Mr. Vaccaro to entice other potential college recruits to bolt for Europe this next season, reneging on their college commitments.  In case you haven't looked lately, there are way more early college departures and foreign players entering the draft than there are draft positions.  This does not  even include the seniors eligible for the draft.  Many fine, young players are going to experience the Marcus Taylor Syndrome and find themselves neither in the NBA or college and with no college degree to fall back on.

Fortunately, Michigan State has not been affected by the likes of Mr. Vaccaro the last few years.  But anything is possible, and one day we might all be chastising him (or others like him) for "stealing" one of our recruits away.  So now I will ask you the question:  "Do you support Mr. Vaccaro's crusade, or do you oppose him"?

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