U-19 players weigh in on one-and-done

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The upcoming NBA draft could be the last of its kind if the one-and-done era is drawing to a close. With the league and players’ union set to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement, up for debate once again is the current rule that requires draft-eligible players to be at least 19 years old during the year of the NBA draft and one year removed from high school.

But what do college players think, the ones who arrived after the age of preps-to-pros? Some got to have their say this past weekend at the USA Basketball U-19 training camp in Colorado. Generally, their opinions were summarized along the lines of what Arizona State incoming freshman Jahii Carson had to say.

“I think if a kid’s good enough to play pro basketball as an 18-year-old kid that’s graduated from high school, he should have the ability to go do that,” said Carson, a top-10 point guard recruit. “But also I feel like if he’s not ready yet to enter, they should have a rule that he has to stay.”

Ask Michigan State’s Keith Appling, and the former McDonald’s All-American and Michigan Mr. Basketball says he likes age limit in theory because he believes in the college experience. But he also believes that players who want to declare for the draft out of high school should be able to.

Ask Butler’s Khyle Marshall, and he doesn’t believe in a process that caused some players to go to college for a year before bolting. “I’m 100 percent against one-and-done,” he said. “It’s either you’re [declaring] out of high school or you just stay two, three years or all four years. We’re trying to build a team. We’re not trying to have a guy come in and then leave automatically. We’re trying to build a program.”

Wake Forest’s Travis McKie, a former top-100 recruit, thinks players who go to college should be required to stay for two years before being able to declare. Florida’s Patric Young, who has developed into a draft prospect after a McDonald’s All-American high school career, says it should be three years, which would be a rule similar to the one for college baseball players and Major League Baseball -- a model that a garnered a growing number of outspoken supporters.

“I think you should have to stay for three years to develop your game just like baseball,” Young said. “Help build your program up.”

Said Appling: “I think if that would happen in college basketball, it would make the NCAA a lot better. There are a lot of guys leaving early. The talent is going down, but if a lot of guys chose to stay two or three years, it would be a lot better.”

Young’s Florida teammate Scottie Wilbekin knows how it feels to leave school early. He signed with the Gators as a high school junior, graduating early so he could get a head start on his college career. He fails to understand the logic of holding someone back from his NBA dreams in the first place.

“I went to college a year early when I was 17,” he said. “I mean, I was good enough to do it, so I did it. If players are good enough to go right out of high school, they should be allowed to.”

Carson, who was one of only two incoming freshmen to be invited to try out for the U-19 team, was told he had the kind of talent it took to go the NBA straight out of high school. So he admitted to wondering what it would be like to make the preps-to-pros jump, but his parents set him straight. “My mom and dad always stressed college, college, college,” said Carson, whose mother is a college professor.

It made the Mesa, Ariz., native see that players ultimately should be able to make big decisions for themselves that would impact their educational and financial futures.

“I’ve always watched LeBron. I’ve always watched Josh Smith,” Carson said. “I was thinking these guys are ready to be NBA basketball players out of high school, and if they went to college they would also dominate there, too. But a guy like Kemba Walker who stayed and took that route is also going to be an NBA lottery pick. I just think it’s whatever the kid feels is best for him.”