The Randolph Morris Effect
Who is the most influential player to enter the NBA Draft in the past twenty years?
Kobe? LeBron? Renaldo Balkman?
No, no, no – you have to think less talented than that. I know what you are asking, and my answer is: yes… even less talented than Balkman.
Future NBA journeyman and recent New York Knicks newbie Randolph Morris is the solution.
Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane to rekindle Morris’s story. Back in 2005, the highly-touted 6’11” freshman posted modest stats, averaging 9 points and 4 boards on a very good Kentucky team. Falsely believing that NBA teams would consider selecting him for his potential and large stature, Morris succumbed to the lure of a professional basketball player lifestyle by entering that year’s draft.
Big mistake. Or was it?
Of all the names called out that day, Randolph Morris was not one of them. It definitely seemed like Morris, a former McDonald’s High School All-American, had overplayed his hand and would be forced overseas to begin his career. However, the most infamous of draft loopholes allowed Morris to return to school because he had not signed with an agent. Granted, he was no longer draft-eligible, but he could continue playing at Kentucky while becoming an NBA free agent.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
After serving a minor suspension, Morris went on to play two additional seasons at Kentucky before becoming the first player to complete a college season then sign with an NBA team and finish their season with them. That’s where Morris’s journey ends – at least for now – but it was only the beginning of what I like to call the Randolph Morris effect.
The college basketball nation took notice, resulting in ever increasing numbers of underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft without bringing an agent on board. The players love their newfound flexibility – without an agent, they can declare for the draft and withdraw prior to it if their status isn’t to their liking; or they can “pull a Morris” – take their chances, hope the hype is legitimate and their name will be called, all the while knowing their college eligibility is still intact.
Often times borderline players having trouble sifting through all of the pros and cons of entering the draft will have multiple sources telling them that their status is higher than it really is. That motivates the impressionable underclassmen to throw their name into the bidding, knowing full well they’re not committed to anything other than exposure if they don’t hire an agent.
Early-entry draft aspirants travel around showcasing their skills at pre-draft camps, attempting to kindle positive recognition from potential employers. And while this experience can provide valuable – though potentially inaccurate – feedback for the players on the likelihood they will be selected and where, it also creates complications.
Universities commit vast amounts of money and support to their student-athletes, but that commitment isn’t always reciprocated. College coaches especially are put in a highly undesirable situation when their athletes use the Randolph Morris effect to their benefit. Simple questions like who will be on the roster for the following season become complex. Recruiting grows even more difficult.
Not only do coaches have to convince potential team members that their school is the perfect fit for them, but now they have to try and anticipate what moves might be made by players teetering on the brink of an NBA career. Broken promises and uncertainty on scholarship availability becomes inevitable. It used to be cut and dry – if they were in the draft, they were there to stay.
The basic idea of loyalty is also challenged. Many schools might hold a grudge against players like Morris and not welcome them back to their program at all. Their move could be taken as a slap in the face. While the benefits of not hiring an agent are obvious, it can also mean hard times for athletic programs attempting to make strides.
I don’t like calling the influx of underclassmen declaring for the draft a trend, because trends fade out – I see this as more of a permanent fixture of the NCAA-to-NBA transition. As long as players have the elasticity they currently enjoy, agent signings will be postponed later and later. And this fact can be attributed to one source – the Randolph Morris effect.
Picture Courtesy of Rivals.com
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