NCAA Changes Draft and College Basketball Eligibility Rules
Photo Courtesy of Complex.com
In a groundbreaking rule change, the NCAA has given more power to college basketball players and potential NBA prospects.
In the new policy, “‘elite’ [high school] prospects, as identified by USA Basketball” (Shams) will now be able hire an agent before their senior year. For now, the “elite” prospects include players that have been invited to a USA Basketball camp before their senior year. This term would include prospects such as Vernon Carey Jr. and Isaiah Stewart, both of which are five-star prospects that played on the USA Basketball U17 World Cup team.
The rule change is an improvement, but the decision of who gets to define an “elite” prospect may cause issues. Both the NBA and USA Basketball were completely blindsided by this announcement and neither has shown much interest in the new policy. USA Basketball does not have the ability or will to weigh prospects in this manner, and what will happen to those who are not USA Basketball-eligible? Projected lottery pick RJ Barrett falls into this category, would he be excluded from this new rule and be unable to sign an agent?
USA Basketball would prefer the NBA decide which prospects get to sign agents, while the NBA feels that it is not their responsibility to decide who can and can not sign an agent. Nonetheless, this change is another step closer to the abolition of the one-and-done rule, which is rumored to be a discussion point in the next set of collective-bargaining meetings between the NBA and the NBPA.
In addition, student-athletes that declared for the NBA draft and were invited to the combine but went undrafted may now return to their former schools. This change will give undrafted players another year to improve their draft stock and continue their progress towards a degree, but still leaves out a lot of student-athletes. Prospects that declare for the draft and are invited to the combine will typically end up signing an NBA contract at some point anyways, even if it is simply a summer league or G-League stint; only six players would have been affected for the 2018 NBA Draft, five of which have now signed NBA contracts (the last signed to the Sydney Kings).
The new policy would leave many undrafted student-athletes on the outside looking in, forcing them to scramble for summer league contracts and overseas deals. This new policy could be a great way for the NCAA to encourage education while allowing student-athletes to make informed decisions about their future. Instead, the scope of these new rules are too narrow and should be expanded to all undrafted student-athletes.
While these rule changes appear to be a step in the right direction, the details of the new policy could undermine its success. The lack of communication between the NCAA, NBA, and USA Basketball may force the high school agent signing rules to be changed further as eligibility and designation questions arise. The undrafted student-athlete rule should be expanded to allow all student-athletes to return to school and continue pursuing an education.