December 10, 2010

MLL Moves Draft to January, Treads Carefully on NCAA Eligibility Rules

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | updated 12.13.10

Virginia's Shamel Bratton headlines a loaded 2011 MLL draft class. The draft will take place Jan. 21 in Baltimore.

The 2011 Major League Lacrosse draft will be held in January, prior to the college season, league commissioner David Gross said, a move that breaks the previous standard of waiting until after Final Four weekend in May to draft eligible college players.

Teams will not offer players' contracts, and players are forbidden to sign agreements or even accept pro team gear (per NCAA rules) until after their college seasons end. But the change to an earlier draft date allows players uninvolved in postseason tournament runs to enter the outdoor pro league for the start of the season, instead of all players waiting until Weeks 3 or 4 like has been customary in the past.

The draft will be held Friday, Jan. 21 in Baltimore, likely at the site of the old ESPN Zone on the Inner Harbor from 8:30-11 p.m., Gross said. It will be streamed live on and be open to the public, either through general admission or a free ticket system.

"There's an element of risk," involved in drafting players before they have a season to play, Gross said. Players' stocks can rise, fall, or they can become injured, which could affect a team's roster makeup. But that could help create interest in MLL during the college season, Gross said, as fans have the chance to follow the statuses of drafted players.

The switch will also hopefully encourage players to find post-collegiate employment opportunities in or near the MLL city that drafted them, he said.

The 2011 draft class is a strong group. College seniors include: Kevin Crowley, the reigning USILA Player of the Year, and fellow first-team All-Americans Billy Bitter (North Carolina), Shamel Bratton (Virginia), Ryan Flanagan (North Carolina) and John Galloway, John Lade and Joel White (Syracuse).

"Good for me," Crowley joked, before analyzing the idea. "I feel like a lot of people could come out of nowhere that would have been potential draft picks. But also when the college season is over, people can jump right in instead of waiting."

The draft is eight rounds and 48 picks. Undrafted players will be asked to register for the MLL Player Pool after their college seasons and be placed in the waiver system. The waiver order is based on the current standings of the six-team league, with the worst team getting the first pick.

Players can attend the January draft if they wish, but they aren't required. Gross said he anticipates players doing phone interviews for the online draft broadcast since they will likely be on college campuses.

"We do not want to do anything to mess with anyone's eligibility," Gross said.

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