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Reminder: NBA draft prospects can actually test the waters now

NCAA regulation changes really will benefit underclassmen whose draft status is in the air before the combine.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

In recent years, the idea of an underclassmen NBA Draft prospect "testing the waters" was essentially abolished. In 2009, the NCAA moved up the date by which players needed to remove their name from draft consideration or surrender college eligibility to mid-April. That, of course, is immediately after the end of the college season and a full month before the critical NBA Draft Combine. The 2009 rule basically did away with the concept of testing the waters. There was no opportunity to work out in front of NBA decision-makers and keep eligibility.

Thankfully, the NCAA made a smart decision in January to push that eligibility deadline out significantly. As announced back in January, prospects now have until 10 days after the end of the combine to make their decision and retain eligibility. This year, that puts the date at May 25. Prospects will be able to work out for teams at the combine and do individual workouts separately, which will give them a real chance to assess their status.

Usually, when underclassmen announce they will test the waters this time of year, there's a huge likelihood they'll remain in the draft. That won't be the case any longer. We could definitely see some underclassmen get poorer reviews at the combine and elsewhere, and return to school. It will become more of a chess match for players on the first-round fringe, where agents will be tracking who else is staying in or going back to school.

The NCAA also loosened on-campus practice rules to allow prospects to work out with their college coaches more than had been allowed previously. And, as always, the NCAA maintains its strict rules against improper benefits. Prospects who take money from agents and the like aren't keeping their eligibility no matter the deadline.

All in all, it's a huge win for prospects and it's potentially a win for a handful of NCAA programs each year who retain players who decide they aren't going to go as high as they wanted. Good work, NCAA.

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