In the final days before the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft, the leaders of college and professional basketball agree the current arrangement is not ideal.
But when it comes to one-and-dones — players who attend college for one season before entering the NBA Draft — NCAA president Mark Emmert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver don’t agree on a solution.
Emmert believes in a direct path from the high schools to the NBA, as there was before 2006. That was the route of such players as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
“My position is a young man or woman shouldn’t have to go to college to become a professional athlete,” Emmert said in New York during an annual session with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “If they want to come to college to become a better athlete and get a degree, then come on.
“But to force someone to go to college that has no interest in being in college makes a travesty of the whole notion of a college athlete. I would love to work with anybody in the pro leagues to provide a system that works.”
The rule was created by the NBA and its players association and requires that a player be at least 19 years old or finished with at least one season of college before entering the draft.
The “one-and-done” rule is why players like Kevin Durant (Texas), Derrick Rose (Memphis) and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) spent a year in college when they might otherwise have advanced directly to the NBA from high school.
Silver said he believes the NBA is better served by having more experienced players enter his league. At the NBA All-Star weekend in February, he said he would prefer a minimum age of 20.
But there’s disagreement here from the players association, which wants players to earn paychecks sooner.
The college player has no say in the issue, even though he is most directly affected. But colleges have thought about ways around the NBA rule. The Big Ten is studying freshmen ineligibility, which hasn’t been part of the college sports landscape since the early 1970s.
Emmert has other ideas. On Thursday, he floated the notion of allowing early entrants to spend one year in the NBA Developmental League and return to school.
Emmert also has suggested a NFL-style combine for pro prospects so that information about college players’ future isn’t coming from agents or coaches.
“They’ve been hearing since 8 that ‘You’re the best I’ve ever seen,’” Emmert said. One of the biggest problems for one-and-done recruits is a lack of “good, realistic, objective information,” about their pro potential.
“They’re not stupid kids,” Emmert said. “But they’re deluded about what their future holds in basketball.”
At college basketball’s showcase event, the Final Four, Duke captured the national championship with three freshmen in the starting lineup. All three — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones — have declared for the draft.
Freshmen to the NBA Draft isn’t exactly an epidemic. Thursday, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson became the 13th to declare for this year’s draft. The list includes Kansas’ Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexender. Kentucky and Duke have three each. But there is a perception issue.
Becoming a great athlete is a wonderful thing, Emmert said. But players shouldn’t be made to spend two semesters in college to make that happen.
“I want kids to come to college to become educated, and if they want to become better athletes, great,” Emmert said. “But if they just want to get to the NBA as quickly as possible, don’t come.”