It’s no secret that as things stand, the biggest story in college basketball right now actually has nothing to do with college basketball at all. It is the future of the “one and done” rule, the NBA bylaw which states that players must be one year removed from high school before being allowed to enter the NBA Draft. As anyone reading this article knows, the rule has been in place for over a decade, sending some of the best players in all of basketball (Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Kyrie Irving) to college for at least one season.
Still, it appears as though the rule will quietly be altered over the next few years. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has openly discussed the possibility of removing the rule for well over a calendar year now, and the FBI’s probe into college basketball seems to have been the final push needed to get things changed. The fact that Condoleezza Rice’s commission also referenced the need to end the one-and-done rule makes it seems like a matter of “when” not “if” the rule will be changed, and quietly the NBA has slowly implementing little rules changes to help ease the transition when it happens. One of those changes is to “certify” more events this summer than usual, allowing NBA scouts into high school gyms to evaluate players.
One of those events was this weekend’s Pangos All-American Camp, a noted West Coast event which in the past has drawn everyone from James Harden and Russell Westbrook to Ben Simmons, Davis, Wall and countless others. For the first time ever NBA scouts were allowed in the gym, giving the event an entirely different feel this weekend.
With so many of the top high school players in America in the building as well it, also felt like a good time to gauge their temperature on a potential rule change. It made sense to focus mostly on the top players in the high school class of 2020 (players who just finished their sophomore years of high school) since it appears as though that may be the first group of high school players allowed to enter the professional ranks.
So after speaking with some of the top high school players what did we find out? Virtually all of them know about the potential rule change. And yes, virtually all would consider a jump to the professional ranks if offered the opportunity.
“Oh yes of course [I’d consider it],” said Kyree Walker the No. 6 player in the class according to 247 Sports, and an Arizona State commit. “I would talk things over with Coach Bobby Hurley and hope he’d be OK with my decision.”
“Absolutely [I’d consider it],” said Isaiah Todd, the No. 2 ranked player in the class.
Others are not only aware, but actively preparing just in case.
“Yeah, my dad talked to me about it, said Marjon Beauchamp, the No. 19 ranked player in the class according to 247 Sports. “ We discussed me, [how] I need to step it up more, get stronger, because that rule could be gone by my senior year.”
The more players we spoke with, the more the answers sounded the same. Of the half-dozen players KSR spoke with, just one said that he wasn’t really thinking about the move. Admittedly, he didn’t say he wasn’t interested. Just that he hadn’t thought about it much.
“I mean, I have only played two years of high school basketball,” said Nate Tabor, the No. 22 ranked player in the class. “So I’ve got to see. But me and my coach, we’d consider something like that. It’s a long time.”
On and on the responses went, as the possibility of turning pro seems to be weighing heavily on the minds of the 2020 high school class. Ironically, it feels as though it’s on the minds of the 2019 class as well, but in a different way. They know they will likely be headed to college for at least one year, but feel like they’re missing out on all the fun.
“I had a feeling for a while that they would change the rule, but I had a feeling that it was going to be for the people after me,” said Cassius Stanley, the No. 19 ranked player in the class of 2019. “Just based on previous things that have happened in my life, it seems like everything that happens in my grade in my class, everything happens the year after. That’s when all the fun starts.”
Clearly this rule is something that virtually everyone in the high school ranks is keeping an eye on, but one thing that will be interesting to see is how exactly a change will be implemented, and whether or not everyone will be allowed to declare or whether there will be limitations. In speaking with all these high school players this weekend, something that I’ve said for months became abundantly clear and was largely confirmed: If the NBA doesn’t put a restriction on who can enter the NBA Draft, expect a flood of players to declare.
Understand, that as someone who lives in this “world” and speaks to high school players, parents, AAU and college coaches on a near daily basis, the idea which has been floated around by most media – that only the elite, can’t miss players will declare – has always been laughable to me. The landscape of the sport has changed so much just in the past few years, with players more focused on getting to the pro ranks, rather than being prepared once they get there.
Again, that was largely confirmed this weekend and is seen in the response from players ranging from “can’t miss” (like Walker and Todd) to those who would be less of a sure thing like Beauchamp, Tabor and others who KSR spoke to. In defense of all the players involved, it’s still early and none said they’d definitively leave if given the option. But again it’s clearly on their minds and is seriously being taken under consideration.
To give you another example of how wild things could get if the rule was changed without any limitations on who can declare, here’s another story from this weekend. During the event I spoke with an AAU coach of a player who is currently unranked by all the major recruiting services, who has already told the coach he’d be interested in turning professional if the rule were changed. Yes, you read that correctly. This player isn’t projected as a future All-Star, or even an elite high-major player. He is a kid who is unranked! In the coach’s defense he said he’d try to talk the player out of such a decision, and in the player’s defense he is a rising prospect who has a handful of fringe Power 5 offers. Still, the fact remains that we could and should expect to see dozens of players declare if this rule is altered.
That’s also why it’ll be interesting to see what the NBA does when the rule is eventually changed. One alternative which has been floated out by John Calipari is the idea of having a combine-style event for players at the end of the junior year, for players to get real feedback from NBA personnel on whether they’re truly ready for the processional ranks or not.
“I think the G League, that’s the purpose [to develop older professional players],” Calipari said back in January. “Not getting 150 high school players and telling them, ‘Don’t worry about your academics. Don’t worry about your academic success. Just go and play basketball, and if you don’t make it, don’t worry. You can figure it out later.’”
It’s a sentiment which – in the interest of full-disclosure – I largely agree with and one that I hope the NBA will seriously consider.
Regardless, a lot of folks will be watching to see what the league does next.
Including virtually all the top players in high school basketball.