The NBA’s 2005 collective bargaining agreement introduced a new term into college basketball’s lexicon: one-and-done.
It’s a phenomenon — the league required U.S. players to be 19 years old and a year removed from high school to be eligible beginning with the 2006 draft — with which Missouri is largely unfamiliar.
The Tigers men’s basketball program has never had a one-and-done prospect.
That changed in April when Michael Porter Jr. signed a financial-aid agreement with new coach Cuonzo Martin’s program.
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Porter is generally viewed as the top prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft, making it a near certainty he’ll spend only one season at Mizzou — unless NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has his way.
“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said of the one-and-done rule before Game 1 of the NBA Finals last month.
Many athletic directors and coaches contend that one-and-done has eroded the idea of the student-athlete, which is the bedrock of the NCAA’s amateurism model.
Ben Simmons, who was the No. 1 pick in 2016, admitted that he seldom attended class during his one year at LSU.
In fact, he was ineligible for the Wooden Award after failing to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average during his first semester.
But Silver also lamented that one-and-done players aren’t any better prepared for the NBA than prospects were before, because “college coaches don’t have the same control they used to” and it stunts development.
Change may be coming, but chatter about change has been the status quo since the rule was adopted and not all SEC coaches are convinced it’s needed.
“I don’t think the one-and-dones are as broke as what some people think they are,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
He and several other coaches — including Kentucky’s John Calipari, who’s coached a record 24 one-and-done players — believe it’s better than alternative routes, such as the NBA Gatorade League, formerly the NBA Developmental League.
“I thought it would shut people out,” Calipari said. “Very rarely do I speak highly of the NCAA, but, in this case, what it did was it challenged a generation of kids to do better academically and be on point to get themselves where they need to go.”
Calipari contends the one-and-done rule has worked fine for the players he’s coached, all of whom with enough service time have reached a second — and generally more lucrative — contract.
While the NBA Players Association favors a return to the old rule, which would allow players to make the jump directly from high school, Silver would prefer raising the minimum age to 20 years old — a move that would force players to remain in college two years, but also could spur a flood of players overseas or into “the G-League.”
The latter option is especially worrisome for college coaches, who have no input in the NBA’s labor rules.
“What is this going to do to a generation of kids who say, ‘All right, I’m going to do this?’” Calipari said. “You get one or two years to make it and now you’re out without any opportunities. Who’s taking care of those kids now? I come back to my kids have an insurance policy. They have a lifetime scholarship. Three or four kids have already started that path to come back and start finishing up (a degree at Kentucky).”
Most SEC coaches prefer the baseball model for draft eligibility, where elite prospects receive a multi-million dollar signing bonus to forego college much like NBA lottery picks.
However, if baseball prospects opt for a four-year college, they are ineligible to re-enter the draft until completing their junior year of college.
Calipari worries that basketball prospects landing in the G-League would receive nominal salaries with no fallback option if that route doesn’t pan out.
College players — who receive lifetime scholarships at most high-major programs, allowing them to return and finish a degree — have options, but many, including Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk, would prefer a rule that requires a more substantial commitment to college.
“I’d love to have the baseball rule, where they make a decision going out of high school,” Sterk said. “If they are a quality athlete, they can go ahead and be drafted right away or just wait three years.”
Sterk noted that three years is enough time with summer school and other options for many students to complete a degree.
“That gives them a good base for the rest of their life, so I think that’s better preparation that one year,” he said.
Technically, as South Carolina’s Frank Martin noted, nothing in the current rule prevents players from utilizing the developmental league or overseas route.
“If they choose to go to college, out of respect to what college athletics are all about, they should have to stay out of the draft for three years,” Martin said. “I don’t see why it works in every sport, but in our sport it’s such a complicated thing to understand.”
Besides, college basketball provides a platform for players like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, who was the No. 2 pick by the Lakers last month, and even Simmons, his vitriol toward the NCAA notwithstanding, to build a brand.
That makes those players — even if they aren’t permitted to profit from their likeness while in college, which is an entirely separate and thorny issue — more valuable assets upon entering the NBA.
The only real loser, Martin argues, has been the college game.
“No one forces kids to go to college,” Martin said. “I’m tired of everyone saying that we’re the ones that are making it hard. The rule doesn’t force kids to go to college. They can go to the D-League. They can go overseas. They can go to prep school. They can go to junior college. No one forces them to come to Division I institutions.”
But the day might be coming where they’re forced to stay.