The University is taking a proactive role in educating men’s basketball team members on rules regarding early entry into the NBA draft. The education initiative comes after senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu was suspended for draft violations early in the 2005-2006 season.
Chandra Bierwirth, the University’s athletic compliance officer, distributed an information sheet to the men’s basketball team detailing GW and NCAA policies regarding the employment of agents, accepting money from NBA teams for travel and other suggestions for protecting collegiate eligibility.
“All we can do is advise our players not to speak to (agents),” Bierwirth said in an interview. “We suggest no contact.”
Bierwirth, along with the athletic administration, held a meeting at the beginning of the year with all athletes where she explained the potential to lose collegiate athletic eligibility due to contact with agents.
“If an agent calls, the player can say ‘send me your information and when I’ve expended my eligibility, I will consider contacting you,'” Bierwirth said.
Players wishing to maintain their eligibility are allowed to call NBA teams and set up workouts, but once an agent contacts a team on a player’s behalf, the player’s eligibility is in jeopardy.
Without the assistance of an agent, setting up workouts with teams is difficult, said Bierwirth, who is in her first year as GW’s compliance officer.
“Unless they are going to go one, two or three in the draft, I would agree it’s probably difficult to get workouts unless there is somebody is acting as an intermediary,” Bierwirth said.
In declaring for the NBA draft last year, Mensah-Bonsu worked out for the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Seattle Supersonics.
Mensah-Bonsu received a three-game suspension for unspecified draft improprieties. Seattle-based agent John Greig, who represents Mensah-Bonsu’s brother Kojo, repeatedly told The Hatchet last summer that he was representing Mensah-Bonsu. The London native denied the claim at the time but recently confirmed he will be represented by Greig. Greig has no clients currently in the NBA. Kojo Mensah-Bonsu plays in Europe.
Juniors Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock and Carl Elliott both said they plan to preserve their eligibility and not hire agents (see “Pinnock, Elliott enter draft,” p. 12). When they expressed their intentions to declare for the NBA draft to the University, Bierwirth met with the two players and spoke in depth about ways to ensure they do not suffer the same fate as Mensah-Bonsu.
With their declaration for the NBA draft, Pinnock and Elliott are eligible to get invitations to the NBA pre-draft camp, held June 6-12 in Orlando, Fla. In addition, the two players are able to work out with individual NBA teams.
Under current NCAA regulations, the NBA is permitted to pay necessary expenses, which include travel, food and lodging, for its pre-draft camp. Team workouts, which typically take place in each NBA city, must be paid for by the player.
The NBA, Bierwirth said, is not interested if a player wants to retain eligibility.
“I think the thing that people won’t seem to understand is that the NCAA has its rules and the NBA has different rules,” Bierwirth said. “The NBA is not here saying ‘we want to help you retain your eligibility.’ That’s not their business. They want to find players to draft.”
In a season in which Mensah-Bonsu was suspended, head men’s basketball Coach Karl Hobbs has been vocal with his opposition to how the process is handled.
“My whole issue with this thing is if you’re going to give them the choice to explore their draft situations, give them the full opportunity to do that,” Hobbs said in a phone interview while on a recruiting trip Tuesday. “Don’t limit them to who they could use.”
Hobbs has contended in the past that it is unfair for the NBA to expect college players to pay for expenses related to team workouts.
With Hobbs’ plethora of connections in basketball, he said it is still difficult to lobby for GW players.
“What I do is I’m in touch with the team and I’ll call to see what their interests are, and they will call me, and if they are interested in them,” Hobbs said. “The NBA decides. It’s a business. The teams decide what kids they want to invite to the camp.”