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Volume 21 No. 35
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Reshaping the game

A look at three of the ideas to change how college basketball treats players going pro and recruiting:

Path to the NBA

Adam Silver is on record as saying that he will work with the players association to find a better alternative to the one-and-done rule. The NBA commissioner acknowledges that the age restriction that necessitates a year of college for most players isn’t working. A few of the alternatives that would be an improvement to the current system, and each of them enable players to turn pro out of high school:

• What is commonly called the baseball rule allows high school graduates to go pro or go to college. They are permitted to decide after they are drafted. If they go to a four-year school, they are draft-eligible after the third year. If they go to a two-year school, they are draft-eligible after two years. The baseball rule is commonly cited as the most effective of the draft-eligible sports.

• The hockey rule allows players 18-20 to declare for the NHL entry draft once. The drafting team retains the player rights until 30 days after the player leaves college, giving him the option of turning pro any year after being drafted.

• In golf, players are able to turn pro and later regain their amateur status. Why can’t basketball players do the same thing, if they do so within the NCAA’s clock of five years to play four? Say a star-struck player decides to go pro out of high school and soon figures out that he’s in way over his head. This rule, for example, would allow him to play a year in a developmental league or overseas, sit out a second year, and then go to college with two years of eligibility, essentially regaining his amateur status. This serves as a remedy for the kid who made a poor choice or was badly misguided, without totally discarding him.

Agents of change

It’s nearly unanimous among college coaches that agents are going to have relationships with the elite players before the players’ eligibility is up. While basketball has rules designed to keep the agents out of the college game, other sports, like college baseball, allow players to hire agents when they’re making the decision on whether to turn pro, and to negotiate contracts. That has prompted a national debate about basketball adopting baseball’s much more transparent agent rules. Another idea making the rounds is to legalize all of those under-the-table arrangements between the agent and the player still in school. If an agent wants to give a player money for future services, let them sign a contract and conduct business above the table.

Summer basketball recruiting

Oy, where to start? For nearly two decades, the NCAA has discussed ways in which to regulate offseason basketball tournaments, camps and clinics. What has changed in the last two decades? Not much, except the attention of the FBI.
“It’s been an evergreen topic as long as I can remember,” said Tom Jernstedt, who spent 38 years as an NCAA executive dating to the 1970s.

The NCAA certifies more than 100 recruitable events a year outside of the high school season, and many coaches would like to see that pared back. Former Maryland coach Gary Williams, a 44-year veteran of coaching, wouldn’t mind eliminating all summer recruiting, which would put the recruiting back on high school campuses. Other coaches would prefer a deeper involvement by USA Basketball, saying the national organization could run eight to 10 regional camps or tournaments, perhaps in conjunction with the NBA and the players association. Of course, USA Basketball is a nonprofit, and those events cost money to manage.

That doesn’t mean doing away with the AAU circuit, but if USA Basketball, or some sort of joint venture, could certify events where coaches can recruit, it could perhaps simplify and clean up the endless summer recruiting.

— Michael Smith