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Donovan offers anti-escape plan

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2001

GAINESVILLE, -- Despite the loss of recruit Kwame Brown, basketball goes on at Florida.

Still, coach Billy Donovan wonders how long the sport will prosper on the college level if the NCAA allows top talent to escape early to the NBA.

"What will probably happen is we'll see a (television) network become unhappy with the quality of play," Donovan said Tuesday. "Then, you'll start seeing a lot of money being taken from the NCAA. Then, you may see more of a sense of urgency to do something."

CBS Sports' new $6-billion contract with the NCAA, which goes into effect in 2003, gives the network rights to televise the men's tournament for 11 seasons.

Donovan suggests a two-pronged solution.

First, he would like to set an age limit for the NBA. The league has proposed one of 20, but the players union would like to leave it at 18.

Second, Donovan wants to see the date players declare for the draft moved from mid May to just after the Final Four. Because of the timing of recruiting and signing periods, coaches have little chance to replace players who wait until the May deadline to declare.

Until then, Donovan thinks college coaches will continue to play the guessing game with elite recruits such as Brown, a 6-foot-11 power forward from Brunswick, Ga., who decided to go pro and is projected as a lottery pick.

When Brown initially committed to Florida, he wasn't viewed as an immediate NBA prospect. He was by the time he signed.

Now that Brown has decided to go pro, Donovan has limited options when it comes to quickly filling the scholarship Brown won't be using.

"If a guy is 7-foot, 250 pounds and he walks in your office and says he wants to come to your school, what are you going to say? 'We're sorry, we're going to hold off right now?' " he said. "No, we're going to take the guy."

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