|Tuesday, April 9
Updated: April 10, 11:59 AM ET
Plan would allow drafted HS players to go to college
By Andy Katz
The NCAA is one step closer to allowing high school players to be drafted and still play in college after the management council passed the proposal to the board of directors Tuesday in Denver.
If the NCAA board of directors approves the rule later this month then high school juniors, including likely top draft picks LeBron James of Akron and Kedrick Perkins of Houston, could enter the 2003 NBA draft, get picked by say the Clippers and Warriors and still play college basketball in the 2003-04 season.
The ruling wouldn’t affect the 2002 June draft or the potential decisions of high school seniors Amare Stoudemire, Lenny Cooke, DeAngelo Collins, Sani Ibrahim or Carmelo Anthony.
David Berst of the NCAA said the team that drafted the player would own his rights for up to a year. But the player cannot sign with an agent or sign a contract with the team and still retain his amateur eligibility. The NBA’s Stu Jackson, who heads the advisory committee on the draft, could not be reached for comment. One NBA assistant general manager told ESPN.com the question that could muddle this rule is whether or not the player, like James, would be back in the 2004 draft and available to all teams or if the team that drafted him would have the first crack at trying to sign the player before he would become a free agent.
Under the current rule, any high school player who declares for the draft is automatically ineligible for college. Junior college players are under the same rule and Tuesday’s legislation didn’t affect their status. The management council rejected a rule that would have allowed college underclassmen to declare, get drafted and still return to college. That means current college players still must withdraw from the draft up until a week prior to the event if they want to return to college. If a player goes through undrafted then he can still return to college within 30 days as long as he doesn’t sign with an agent. UC Irvine’s Jerry Green did this last summer.
One NBA assistant general manager said Tuesday that he expected high school players to declare in "droves" if it meant they could declare, then play for a year at say, "Florida or Duke," and then go to the NBA. That means a player like Kwame Brown would have been able to play at Florida, where he signed, for a year before going to the Washington Wizards, where he was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. College coaches are likely to be split on this issue, especially considering they could get a marquee player for at least one season. The rule might benefit high school players who are picked in the second round, like Ousmane Cisse last season, and still allow them to go to college if they don't like their draft status.
"There is a lot of bad advice and poor decisions are made," the NCAA’s Steve Mallonee said in response to why the legislation was passed. "As long as the player isn’t signing a contract or signs with an agent then he could return."
The rule would begin Aug. 1, 2002 if passed by the board of directors.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.