We're here to clarify the NBA draft rules for underclassmen.
Every spring, information is released that is sometimes inaccurate or out of date. So, as soon as the early-entry list was published by the NBA, we went to the source the NCAA to get the updated rules for four-year college, junior college and high school players for the NBA draft process.
High school seniors have the most latitude. They can be drafted and go to school. The only hangup is the team owns their draft rights until a year after their college eligibility expires at the draft spot in which they were selected. So far, no one has exercised this since every high school senior who has been selected has renounced his eligibility by signing with an agent and trying the NBA.
Obviously, any player signing with an agent immediately becomes ineligible to return to school.
Without further ado
126.96.36.199.1 Exception Professional Basketball Draft Four-Year College Student-Athlete
An enrolled student-athlete in the sport of basketball may enter a professional league's draft one time during his or her collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his or her intention to resume intercollegiate participation within 30 days after the draft. The student-athlete's declaration of intent shall be in writing to the institution's director of athletics. (Adopted: 1/11/94, Revised: 1/10/95, 1/14/97 effective 4/16/97, 4/24/03 effective 8/1/03; for student-athletes entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/03)
ESPN.com translation: A four-year college player has one chance to test the NBA draft process and still go back to school, provided that player is not selected by an NBA team. It does not matter if that occurs because the player withdraws from the draft (by one week prior to the draft, per NBA rules) and is not available to be selected or if the player stays in the draft and goes unselected. The player must notify the school within 30 days after the draft to have his eligibility restored.
188.8.131.52.2 Exception Professional Basketball Draft Two-year College Prospective Student-Athlete
A prospective student-athlete enrolled at a two-year collegiate institution in the sport of basketball may enter a professional league's draft one time during his or her collegiate career without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the prospective student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league. (Adopted: 4/24/03 effective 8/1/03; for student-athletes entering a collegiate institution on or after 8/1/03)
ESPN.com translation: JC players can declare one time and still go to a four-year school.
184.108.40.206 Tryout Before Enrollment
Prior to collegiate enrollment, a prospective student-athlete is permitted to try out for a professional team provided:
• The prospective student-athlete does not receive more than one expense-paid visit from each professional team;
• The prospective student-athlete tryout does not exceed 48 hours; and
• Any payment or compensation in connection with the visit was not in excess of actual and necessary expenses.
Note: A self-financed tryout may be for any length of time.
ESPN.com translation: High school seniors can get workouts paid for by NBA teams and technically can declare three times for the draft, as opposed to two for four-year college and junior college players.
A high school senior could test the process after his senior year and then again after his freshman or sophomore year before declaring for good as a junior. According to the NCAA, this means that a player like Washington's Brandon Roy could have declared as a junior and still retained his amateur status, since he originally declared as a high school senior. We incorrectly reported this a few weeks back.
This is good news for the high school seniors who declared this year if they want to test the draft process once they get to college, assuming they withdraw by June 21.
After an individual enrolls in college, the student-athlete may accept actual/necessary expenses from the NBA to participate in the NBA pre-draft camp. The student-athlete may try out with an NBA team during the summer or during the academic year (if not enrolled full-time), provided the student-athlete does not receive any form of expenses or other compensation from the team.
Please note there has been some confusion in the past few years with regards to the team providing actual/necessary expenses to a student-athlete. It is not permissible for the NBA team to initially pay for the expenses for the student-athlete with the condition the student-athlete would repay the NBA team after the tryout. Furthermore, the student-athlete may not try out with an NBA team during the academic year if enrolled full-time; unless the student-athlete has exhausted his eligibility.
ESPN.com Translation: Don't pull a Lawrence Roberts. Pay up front and you won't have to deal with the NCAA sitting you for a game or two or more if you return. Also, players can't go for tryouts until after school ends. That's why a player (like Stanford's Chris Hernandez) at a school on the quarter system can't try out until June.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com