College hoops is at mercy of NBA

semerson@macon.comMarch 3, 2014 

Arkansas Kentucky Basketball

JAMES CRISP/ASSOCIATED PRESSKentucky head coach John Calipari says he hopes the NBA changes its eligibility rules to make players to go to college for two seasons before entering the NBA draft.


Here’s your challenge: Find somebody in college basketball who likes the one-and-done rule. Even the person who has made the most use of it would like to change it.

Now here’s your bigger challenge: Get the NCAA and NBA to find common ground and a rule that makes sense. Good luck.

And therein lies the true issue.

Baseball has an early entry rule that everyone seems happy with: Players can enter the draft after high school, but once they enter college they must stay three years.

Football’s rule is similar: Three years before players can be drafted, but they can’t enter out of high school. There have been minor efforts to change it, but the NFL and college ranks are happy with it, too.

Then there’s basketball. Eight years ago the NBA, seeking to protect itself from itself, declared that a player must be at least a year out of high school to enter the draft. The league wanted it, and the players association signed off on it.

The college ranks weren’t consulted.

While many have done their best to use it, most famously Kentucky’s John Calipari, the groundswell has been against it.

“I’m hoping this rule changes and it goes to two years,” Calipari told Kentucky media Monday. “Makes it good for the kids, high school kids, college kids, the NBA. It’s good for everybody.”

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver agrees, telling USA Today recently he’d like to increase it to two years. The players association hasn’t weighed in yet, but based on its history the players association will use it as a bargaining chip for something else, then go along.

But that still doesn’t go far enough for many college head coaches.

Georgia’s Mark Fox wishes the baseball model could be adopted: Let players go to the NBA straight out of high school if they wish, but if they don’t, commit them to college through their junior years.

The problem is whether the NBA would go along with it. The heart of the league’s rule is preventing high school players from coming in. For every Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, there have been ... well, names you don’t recognize and never will have to.

But college basketball is at the mercy of the NBA. There’s a misconception out there -- even NBA owners like Dallas’ Mark Cuban seem unaware -- that the NCAA has anything to do with this. Cuban lashed out at the NCAA and the one-and-done rule last weekend, while any blame for the rule lies with his own league.

The NCAA is usually a fair target. But on this issue, the problem is the inability of the pro and college ranks to work together.

“The hope now is that with the new NBA commissioner that maybe there’s a chance for progress there. Because we certainly we need the NBA to address it,” Fox said. “That’s ultimately whose guidelines we end up reacting to. And it is my belief that if a kid is good enough to go after high school, but if they go to college, like we do in football, like we do in baseball, require them to stay for three years. Because I think it would make not only our game better, but their game better. But we definitely need the cooperation of the NBA for that.”

Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings agrees with Fox, and he’s in a unique position. His son is a pro baseball player. He also has recruited some highly ranked players, such as John Jenkins, but they ended up sticking around until at least their junior seasons.

“We have kids coming to college right now essentially thinking, ‘I only have to be there one year.’ And I don’t think that’s in the truest sense of what intercollegiate athletics is supposed to be,” Stallings said. “For me, if a kid wants to and can go to the NBA out of high school, I say we let him. If you’re good enough go ahead, there’s no reason he should try to fake everybody and come to college for a year. And then if they got here, if a guy is gonna stay here two or three years in college, obviously he has to do some schoolwork, work toward a degree and at least put himself in position where if he wants to graduate from college then he can.”

It’s a good point. It’s a noble point. And again, there’s only problem.

It’s not up to Stallings, Fox or even Calipari. It’s up to Silver and the NBA, and then the players association.

Raising the minimum age by a year might help everybody and looks like it has a chance to happen. But the baseball rule, which would be even better for everybody, would be a much, much harder sell.

“Obviously the NBA doesn’t have to concern themselves with us so much,” Stallings said. “But certainly if both sides got together on the thing, they could probably come up with the best possibility, the best alternative.”

Contact Seth Emerson at and follow him on Twitter@sethemerson.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service