The NCAA announced today that it is implementing several changes to its rules and policies in response to the federal investigation into college basketball recruiting. The list of changes being made by the NCAA is a lengthy one, and can be read in full right here. However, two tweaks to the current rules are of particular interest from an NBA perspective.
Going forward, the NCAA will allow college players who declare for the NBA draft as early entrants to keep their names in the draft and then return to school if they’re not selected. The previous system forced early entrants to make a decision within 10 days of the conclusion of the draft combine — if they remained in the draft after that point, they lost their NCAA eligibility.
In 2018, 181 college underclassmen initially declared for the draft, but more than 100 of those players withdrew their names before the final NCAA deadline. Under the new system, many of those players could keep their names in the NBA draft and retain their NCAA eligibility if they decide after the draft that they’re not ready to go pro. They’ll have to notify their school’s athletics director of their intent to return by the Monday after the NBA draft.
It’s worth noting that this rule change shouldn’t result in hundreds of extra underclassmen remaining in the draft through June — according to today’s announcement, only early-entrant players who request an evaluation from the NBA’s undergraduate advisory committee and participate in the draft combine are eligible to return to the school following the draft. So a prospect who isn’t invited to the combine still figures to have to make a pre-draft decision.
This change figures to go into effect in 2019 as long as the NBA and NBPA tweak their own rules to ensure that undrafted prospects who return to school are ineligible to play in the NBA during the following season.
Additionally, the NCAA will also allow “elite” high school basketball recruits and college players to be represented by agents. Those agents must be certified by an NCAA program with “standards for behavior and consequences for violations.”
Per the NCAA’s announcement, USA Basketball will be responsible for determining whether or not a high school recruit is considered “elite” and qualifies for an agent. However, a USA Basketball official tells ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Twitter link) that USAB hasn’t given its approval for that, so the NCAA itself may be making those elite-prospect designations.
If and when the NBA and NCAA allow high school players to enter the draft, high-schoolers will be eligible to hire an agent beginning on July 1 before their senior year. College prospects will be eligible to hire an agent after any basketball season as long as they request an evaluation from the undergraduate advisory committee.
While there are several other rule changes coming to NCAA basketball, these two look like they’ll have the most significant impact on potential NBA players. While the new rules come with limitations and may only really benefit a small group of prospects, they should help provide those players with more reliable information on whether or not to go pro and more flexibility to return to school if they ultimately decide they’re not ready for the next level.