Opinion: Why wait to go pro?
In 1995, Kevin Garnett began an exodus of high school basketball players choosing to skip the college level and enter into the NBA. For ten years, famous past and present players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James utilized this route to great success.
However, as part of a new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players Association and NBA team owners, players hoping to enter into the NBA had to be both 19 years old and a year removed from high school after 2005.
This change introduced the rise of “one-and-done” prospects, or players who played one year in college and then entered into the NBA.
Many college-eligible players have found alternate routes on the path to the NBA.
Emmanuel Mudiay, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft, played overseas to earn money, and Darius Bazley, who committed to play for Syracuse in the 2018-19 season, chose to instead train on his own to prepare for the 2019 draft.
In the NCAA this year, freshman Zion Williamson has taken the college basketball world by storm by being more physically ready than all of his peers.
In a game for Duke against rival North Carolina on Feb. 20, Williamson cut so hard that his foot broke through his shoe, giving him a knee injury. Most athletes, even incredibly gifted ones, would have twisted an ankle and stayed in their shoe.
Williamson, as exciting as he is while playing in the NCAA, should not have to play college basketball for a season to prove himself ready for the NBA, and other elite prospects should not have to either. The antiquated rules established in 2005 must be changed.
Thankfully, the NBA is in discussions to lower the age for players to enter into the NBA. NBA commissioner Adam Silver publicly considered discussing an age change in February 2017.
“It's the kind of issue that needs to be studied,” said Silver to ESPN. “I think I have a better understanding of the issue now as well, as I talk to some of the young players who are coming into our league who have only completed a portion of their freshman year in college and have a better understanding of what the conditions are for them both academically and in terms of their basketball requirements.”
Players wanting to enter into the NBA today are more emotionally, mentally and physically mature than they were two decades ago, and while some players will inevitably fail, more players have a better support system to help them determine whether they should go to college or go pro.
As it currently stands, the NBA is working to allow high school players to enter the NBA in either 2020 or 2022 directly from high school, depending on the optimism of the source.