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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    NBA Draft hopefuls need to go to class

    Michael Schwartz
    Michael Schwartz

    Although the Arizona men’s basketball team’s season ended March 16 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the school year doesn’t end until mid-May.

    Unfortunately for the future of the UA program, apparently that does not matter to sophomore forward Marcus Williams, who has been absent for the past eight classes since the loss and has missed a test in the Tier Two TRAD I share with him.

    Although he has not officially announced his intentions to declare for the NBA Draft – Williams is holding a press conference to address the topic today – everything points to his departure, from his absence in that class to UA head coach Lute Olson saying he would be “”shocked”” if Williams stayed after the tournament loss. (Williams told the Arizona Daily Wildcat last week he would address his class situation today at the press conference.)

    But Williams’ loss could be felt beyond his scoring and rebounding abilities due to the impact of the Academic Progress Rate.

    Under the APR’s formula, teams must accumulate 925 of a possible 1,000 points from a formula in which players earn one point for staying eligible and another point for staying on track to graduate each semester.

    “”I’m not saying if we ever got into the position of losing a scholarship it’s death, but it’s crucial.””
    – Jim Rosborough,
    UA associate
    head coach

    Teams must stay above this 92.5-percent threshold over a four-year period once enough information is gathered, but the NCAA only started keeping track in 2003-04. Until all this data becomes available, confidence intervals – which roughly represent the range of scores which the true APR falls under – are used in combination with the available data from previous years to definitively make sure each teams’ true APR resides below 925 before that squad loses scholarships.

    Although even Einstein might struggle to figure out what exactly an individual player’s departure would mean with all the factors involved, clearly if Williams drops out of school it would hurt badly.

    However, according to UA senior associate athletic director Rocky LaRose, if he leaves but stays in school for the semester the blow will be lessened because Williams’ score for the semester would not count for or against Arizona’s total.

    “”I think Marcus, if he decides to go, owes the program, and he needs to make sure that we don’t lose a scholarship as a result of him not finishing up the way he should finish up,”” UA head coach Lute Olson said at his season-ending press conference in March.

    The same holds true for the possible early departures from school of seniors Ivan Radenovic and Mustafa Shakur, who have exhausted their eligibility. Although the team could not lose a scholarship directly from Shakur and Radenovic leaving, if they do drop out and that pushes Arizona’s score below 925 in combination with an underclassman like Williams leaving early, then the Wildcats would lose a scholarship.

    Arizona would get a point back if any player no longer eligible drops out but returns in the fall, but there’s a better chance of Shakur being the starting point guard for the Phoenix Suns next year than him or Radenovic doing that if either drops out in the spring.

    LaRose said UA athletes are made very aware of what their academic performance means to their team every day.

    “”When they leave or opt to stay they’re fully informed,”” she said.

    Athletes are also told about the implications of the APR from a laundry list of sources related to the athletics department: Peak Performance class for freshman athletes; Student Athlete Advisory Board meetings; the Peer Athletic Leaders Group; the student-athlete handbook; and even over the student-athlete listserv.

    That’s not to mention individual meetings with coaches, where all this information is reinforced.

    “”We try to do everything we can, understanding all the pressures that they’re under, to also (get the athletes to) understand the impact they can have regarding the Academic Progress Rate,”” LaRose said.

    Texas phenom Kevin Durant, who is widely expected to turn pro and become a top-two pick in the NBA Draft, knows the score.

    “”Let’s say I did turn pro (after this season),”” Durant told Sports Illustrated. “”I’d still go to class anyway because I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my team. If I stop going to classes they can lose scholarships.””

    Durant realizes that in the competitive world of college athletics, in which winning matters so much, a scholarship makes a huge difference.

    “”It’s a little bit life or death for the program,”” said UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough. “”I’m not saying if we ever got into the position of losing a scholarship it’s death, but it’s crucial.””

    That’s not just talk. Rosborough said the basketball staff hasn’t missed a day checking classes, and the associate head coach himself stood outside Williams’ class the day he missed the test.

    “”We’re all over this stuff,”” Rosborough said. “”It might be more important than wins. It’s important and crucial and we’ve been working hard at it since the season was over.””

    For Rosborough, it’s “”aggravating”” that the coaches have no leverage in convincing seniors who have completed their eligibility to stay in school, suggesting that things would be different if the NBA fined student-athletes who drop out, something that will unfortunately never happen.

    “”The thing that kind of concerns me is I’ve never heard a real good reason for how to help kids who finish their eligibility to stay in school,”” Rosborough said. “”They want us to (help them stay in school), but don’t give us leverage over anyone to make kids stay in school.””

    Leverage shouldn’t even matter. These athletes should remain in school out of respect for the program that made them prospects who have a future in professional basketball, NBA or not, to begin with.

    Even if they don’t care about school, which is their prerogative, Williams and the seniors owe it to the Arizona program of which they have spoken so respectfully to just go to class, take their tests and then move on with their life.

    One season’s already been ruined by Williams and crew auditioning for the NBA, but if they don’t finish out the semester, another very well may be hurt as well.

    Michael Schwartz is a journalism junior. He can be reached at

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