April 13, 2006

Stern believes Noah will one day be an NBA star

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NBA Commissioner David Stern thinks
Joakim Noah will be a star in the NBA but will probably return
to the University of Florida for his junior season.

The son of former French Open tennis champion Yannick Noah
transformed himself from a bench-warmer as a freshman to a
future NBA lottery pick while leading the Gators to the
national title.

"I think that he is going to be a star in the NBA," Stern
said during a wide-ranging conference call Thursday with

"I think that he is most likely going to return to college
for another year, a decision that I applaud for him because
he's going to get to enjoy another year of college, which is
not just about basketball, but about life."

The 6-foot-11, 225-pound forward told a rally in
Gainesville he would return to school but that has failed to
quell speculation he could turn pro while his stock is high.

Noah was voted the most outstanding player in the NCAA
Tournament while leading Florida to its first national title. A
21-year-old with an uncanny abundance of energy, Noah averaged
more than 14 points and seven rebounds this year.

Stern thought another year at Florida would help him
"develop his skills further."

"I think that on the basis of what he clearly demonstrated
in the NCAA Finals, he is going to be -- when he decides to
come out or he graduates -- a very top draft pick in the NBA.

"But from our perspective, we think it's fine that somebody
decides to enjoy another year of college."


Noah has until April 29 to declare his intention to enter
the June 28 NBA draft.

The NBA's youngest players, those who jumped straight from
high school to the pros this season, have generally had a
mediocre freshman campaign.

Monta Ellis of the Golden State Warriors is averaging 6.1
points and Martell Webster of the Portland Trailblazers 6.0 to
lead the pack.

Beginning with this year's draft, prep players must wait
one year after their class graduates and turn 19 by the end of
the calendar year to join the NBA.

Stern thinks the new age limit, part of the league's
collective bargaining agreement, makes sense.

"I think from the business perspective, it's better for our
teams to be able to see a player after he has played against
harder competition, which will be the collegiate ranks," Stern

"Some of our basketball experts believe that if a youngster
comes out too early, it isn't about catching up, it's about the
possibility that he might not develop into what he could have

"That would be bad for the young man's prospects and the
team's prospects."