NCAA must put smart systems in place for the end of one-and-done

Jaime C. Harris | 4/4/2019, 11:04 a.m.
Last Saturday, one day before Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke University men’s basketball team were eliminated from the NCAA tournament ...
Mike Krzyzewski Bill Moore photo

Last Saturday, one day before Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke University men’s basketball team—which was the heavy betting favorite to win the title before it began—were eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Michigan State 68-67, the all-time winningest coach in Division I basketball history (1,132 wins) expressed trepidation regarding the NCAA’s preparedness for the imminent ending of the NBA’s rule commonly known as one-and-done.

“The NCAA is not prepared right now,” Krzyzewski said after Duke fell one game short of reaching the Final Four, which will be held this Saturday in Minneapolis. “They need to be in concert with the NBA in developing a plan that is specific for men’s college basketball.

“And that should include what an athlete gets, how he’s been taken care of, whether or not there’s a reentry if something—really, it’s deep. And if we only look at it shallow, then we’re doing a disservice to the kids. And that’s why I would hope that the NCAA has someone leading this to figure it all out.”

Some have the misunderstanding the rule was established by the NCAA. In fact, it was collectively bargained by the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association in their 2005 agreement and instituted beginning with the 2006 draft. In essence, it mandates that to be draft eligible, any player who is not classified as an international player must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class.

For example, although the Knicks’ Kevin Knox was only 18 when he was selected in the first round last June out of the University of Kentucky, he was turning 19 in August and had graduated high school over a year earlier. The last player drafted straight out of high school was Amir Johnson by the Detroit Pistons 14 years ago.

Although the rule’s primary intent wasn’t to safeguard the best interests of 18- and even 17-year-olds looking to make the jump directly from high school to the pros, it provided an additional year for teams to further evaluate teenagers’ level of readiness, both on and off the court, to enter the challenging NBA workforce.

Krzyzewski is correct in that the NCAA hasn’t put a plan in place for the numerous young men who will attempt to follow the path of Kevin Garnett (1995), Kobe Bryant (1996), Tracy McGrady (1997), and LeBron James (2003) but whose journey will mirror that of Lenny Cooke.

The gifted Brooklyn product was ranked among the best prep players in the country in 2002 and entered that year’s draft expecting to be a first round pick. Unfortunately, Cooke went undrafted and never played a game in the NBA.

If the NCAA’s leadership is prudent and seeking to best serve student-athletes, in the future, a system will be put in place that allow young men like Cooke to still experience college basketball, mature, improve their game and get another shot at making the league.