The NCAA rules committee always has their hands full when it comes to ensuring proper and equitable treatment for student athletes, whether still in high school and looking to commit, currently playing in the NCAA, or exiting in hopes of being drafted by a professional team.
Starting in 2009, the NCAA made changes to the rules that affected college basketball recruiting at both the high school and professional levels. Some of those changes went into effect in 2010 and 2011, and culminated this year with some changes in eligibility.
Here’s a comprehensive look at some key rules that have changed this year.
High School Recruits
In a bid to reduce the amount of contact and influence agents have over top college basketball prospects still in high school, and to help foster a real relationship between coaches, prospects, and their families, the NCAA has deregulated its rules related to contact with prospects.
Starting on June 15 of this year, college basketball coaches will be allowed unlimited access to high school students who’ve just finished their sophomore year in high school. This means before a prospect has started his junior year in high school, college coaches can now call or text prospects, or even contact them via social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter, a full two years before they’re eligible for NCAA play.
Additional changes were made to the rules governing official visits. Starting on January 1 of a prospect’s junior year, schools can pay the travel expenses for the player and his parents to come visit the school.
Regardless of your thoughts about these changes, they’re here to stay as the NCAA, college athletic directors, and coaches see them as necessary in creating lasting relationships with prospects and their families.
Starting in 2012, college basketball players have to make their intentions known by April 10 in order to retain their NCAA eligibility. Prior to 2012, they had until June—10 days before the NBA Draft—to make it known whether they were staying in college or were leaving for the chance of joining the NBA.
The reasons cited by the NCAA for shortening the deadline by a couple of months have everything to do with keeping athletes focused on academics during the spring school term. The change was also designed to help coaches know as soon as possible what their future rosters would look like, giving them a chance to hone and adjust their recruiting efforts accordingly.
For the top college basketball players who were definitely headed to the NBA, the change from June to April doesn’t matter much. For college basketball players uncertain about their chances of being drafted and making a roster—essentially the bulk of college basketball players—the additional time was invaluable.
The NBA’s early-entry date is April 29 which, under the new rules, gives players a mere 19 days to have their draft “stock” evaluated. This all comes with a loophole big enough to drive a basketball court through. Players can say they’re staying on April 10 and then make themselves available in the NBA early-entry program on April 29. This could prove interesting as this date approaches because several top NCAA players stated their desire to stay in school, including Lehigh junior C.J. McCollum, Michigan freshman Trey Burke, and Duke junior Mason Plumlee.
These declarations to stay in school surprised many NBA draft analysts, and because of the loophole there’s really nothing but their honest intentions keeping them from declaring themselves eligible for the NBA draft on April 29. Once players declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft, they effectively waive their remaining college eligibility.
High School Prospects
These new rules also have implications on the nation’s top high school prospects. In many instance in the past, they’ve had to hold off on their final decision until June for strategic reasons. There’s no reason for a top power forward, as an example, to declare for a school whose current power forward has decided to stay an additional year.
Some high school players make their final decision based on which players in a particular program are staying, and some base their decision on which players are leaving. Either way, the April date will give high school prospects the chance to agree to attend a particular school sooner than later, which helps all parties involved.
For college basketball coaches, the new rules let them get a feel for their roster at the earliest possible date. Their only real risk is a player who’s decided to stay changing his mind. Fortunately, that span of time is less than three weeks, which minimizes the potential damage of an athlete who’s changed his mind.
For top NBA draft prospects, the new rules change little to nothing where they’re concerned. After all, they’re anxious to declare their draft eligibility as early as possible.
The shortened timelines for the vast majority of college basketball players looking to enter the NBA draft will mean these players are going to have to be relatively certain about their professional prospects before they declare, or they’ll have to stay in college for at least one additional season.