Andy Katz reports via ESPN.com the NCAA men’s basketball oversight committee introduced a proposal Wednesday that, if adopted, would allow early entrants to the NBA draft an opportunity to return to college after the pre-draft combine in May. A decision won’t come until January, but steps taken to this end are positive and long overdue.
Since the NBA adopted an age restriction of 19 years for would-be draftees in 2005, elite-level prospects who would have otherwise entered the NBA draft immediately after high school kick around campus for a few months.
From a strictly fan-perspective — and admittedly, a selfish perspective at that — the “One-and-Done” rule afforded spectators the opportunity to see Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and others flourish in the college game for a year before fulfilling their NBA destinies. Anyone could have made the jump directly from the prep game had they been allowed.
However, along with the predictable one-and-dones — the 5-star blue chips who would have considered the high school jump previously — another byproduct of the age restriction became an unfortunate trend. More players who simply weren’t ready for the NBA began following suit.
Though its prevalence tapered in recent years, a stigma that surfaced in the wake of the One-and-Done rule was the longer a player developed in college, the less appealing he was as an NBA prospect. Whether this notion is a legitimate concern of NBA front offices are simply a misconception is irrelevant; the idea itself has been enough to send college players into the draft waters without a life preserver.
Plenty of players are now dispelling this perception. Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky is a prime example, going from a relative unknown to a potential lottery pick thanks to his development through four years of college. However, Kaminsky’s arrival now does no good for underclassmen who split early, either due to misconception or bad advice, fell out of the first round thus losing guaranteed money, and have kicked around in the D-League.
Former Arizona forward Grant Jerrett left Arizona in 2013, after one season as a reserve forward for the Wildcats. At 6-foot-10 with a soft jumper, Jerrett had the foundation to be a serviceable stretch-four. Jerrett projected as a second-round pick following the draft combine, which proved prophetic indeed: He was selected late by Portland and traded to Oklahoma City, where he played five games.
He was traded a second time to Utah, suiting up for the Jazz just three times all last season.
Coincidentally, in that same draft, teammate Solomon Hill — a four-year Wildcat who considered early departure after 2012 — went to the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Hill was a solid role player for Indiana in 2014-’15, averaging just under 9 points and 4 rebounds per game while playing all 82.
For players like Jerrett who want to test their professional chops, but ultimately are not yet at that level, the NCAA’s proposal is the life preserver. The ability to get a true, adequate gauge on their NBA credentials, and learn firsthand what aspects of their game need work, without sacrificing their eligibility is only fair.
For programs that lose players prematurely, this proposal could help alleviate some of the headache inherent with replacing players unexpectedly. This leads to more veteran teams with better developed players. Look no further than two-time Final Four participant Wisconsin for the benefits of having such a lineup.
Likewise, this is a measure that should help improve the quality of the college game, an oft-broached topic currently with the prevalence of low scores and unskilled basketball being played.