After Amare Stoudemire was the only player drafted out of high school in 2002, five players went preps-to-pros in 2003. The a record-setting eight high schoolers were selected in the first round in 2004, which also marked the third time in four years that a prep player was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft (Kwame Brown in 2001, LeBron James in 03’ and Dwight Howard in 04’).
Despite the success preps-to-pros players have experienced, basketball purists cried that something had to be done. NBA commissioner David Stern agreed.
So when the NBA and its players association negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement this past summer, Stern got his way, and an age minimum was instituted. Beginning in 2006, a player must be 19 and one year removed from high school before he ca be drafted.
In the 2005 draft, the last to allow the preps-to-pros jump, a record nine high school players were taken, but only three went in the first round.
Ten years after Kevin Garnett ushered in the modern preps-to-pros craze in 1995, an era was over. Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady were all produced in that era. It was an era that had an incredible impact not only the NBA but on college and high school basketball.
Over and over, this issue is weighed in about whether the new rule is positive or negative many have debated its potential impact and countless other angles. But how do high school players feel about having the straight-to-the-NBA option taken away? Most aren’t fans of the decision.
Some criticize the NBA for setting the age at 19 when its initial hope was for an age minimum of 20 that likely would have had greater impact. Others say the “19 and one year removed from high school” phrasing is confusing and strange.
College as an “option” probably isn’t what Stern envisioned with the age minimum. And colleges will have to decide whether to extend scholarships to players who might be one-and-done.
There are plenty of prep players who see the wisdom behind the NBA’s thinking, even if they don’t agree with it.
The three prep players taken in the first round receive guaranteed contracts, but the other six must fight for roster spots. Not exactly the glamorous life they sought.
Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy senior forward Brandan Wright, a top five recruit in the Class of 2006, says he was thinking about going straight to the pros but doesn’t believe the age minimum is a bad thing. “It may hurt gus who need the money,” he says, “but it will help people grow and develop.”
Lawrence North (Indianapolis) senior center Greg Oden surely would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft if not for the new rule.
“It’s unfair,” Greg Oden says. “But it’s over with now, so there’s no reason to complain.”
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