Ohio State coach Thad Matta has never won a national title. Yet in his dreams he ponders what it was like for the Wizard of Westwood, back in the days before players could leave school early for the pros.
``I've often said this to my wife: 'Can you imagine what John Wooden felt like every night when he went to bed?''' Matta said with a laugh.
Had all of Matta's recruits stayed with the Buckeyes instead of using the NBA's ``one and done'' rule that allows players to jump to the pros after a single college season, he might have a UCLA-sized juggernaut of his own.
``I'd have a little smile on my face,'' Matta said.
Over the last two NBA drafts, no fewer than four Ohio State players have spent one year on campus before being taken in the first round. B.J. Mullens, the third 7-footer of the bunch, is expected to make it five in three years in Thursday night's draft.
ta hates the rule but shrugs. It's not his choice.
But the list of those opposing it is growing. The National Association of Basketball Coaches, which represents college coaches, is lobbying the NBA and its players association to change the rule when its next contract takes effect in 2011.
Matta's teams have gone 35-4, 24-13 and 22-11 the last three years. Next year's club will be built around Evan Turner, a junior who was an honorable mention All-American last season while averaging 17.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4 assists a game.
But what Matta sees when he drifts off to sleep is a tall and talented lineup of veterans that includes 7-foot Greg Oden (No. 1, Portland, 2007) at center, Mike Conley Jr. (No. 4, Memphis, 2007) running the point, 7-0 Kosta Koufos (No. 23, Utah, 2008) at power forward, Daequan Cook (No. 21, Philadelphia, 2007, then traded to Miami) at shooting guard and Turner at small forward.
Mullens, a raw talent who averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last year for his hometown Buckeyes, would come off the bench.
The scary part is that all six of those standouts could have played for the Buckeyes last year - and none would have been a senior.
Such a dream lineup haunts and taunts Matta.
``I do it every day, who we'd be starting next year,'' he said.
ilt Chamberlain left the University of Kansas in 1958 after his junior season and had to spend a year with the Harlem Globetrotters before he was eligible for the draft.
It all changed in the 1970s when the NBA exempted so-called ``hardship'' cases, who could be drafted before their college class graduated. The door opened wider in the mid-1990s when Kevin Garnett, fresh out of Farragut High in Chicago, was the No. 5 pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves and almost immediately became a superstar.
In the drafts since, teenagers such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard have stolen the headlines on draft day.
The only constraint came when the NBA and the players' association decided before the 2006 draft that a player had to be 19 years old and had to have spent at least one year out of high school before he could be drafted. That prompted Oden, an acclaimed Indianapolis prep star, to play a year at Ohio State before being taken No. 1 the following year.
The NABC favors something similar to how Major League Baseball approaches its draft. Elite players can be drafted right out of high school, but if they elect to go to college they are not eligible for the draft again until after their junior year.
, it doesn't seem like a very realistic goal that that person is going to get their college degree. There's no doubt that there are some players who are ready to come out right away out of high school. But there are a lot of others who go that route and then quickly find out it's not what they thought it was.''
Meanwhile, coaches such as Matta are left to retrace their steps, recruiting players to replace their most recent recruits.
``I don't think I've had one NBA team ever tell me that a kid should come out early,'' Matta said. ``They want those guys to stay in as long as they can. Now, they'll back it up by saying, 'We will draft them. But we'd much rather have kids stay in school as long as they can.'''
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