INDIANA — The conversation around the NBA’s one-and-done rule so often focuses on how it impacts institutions in power. How would college basketball be affected if the country’s best recruits are turning pro every year instead of going to college for a season? How will the NBA adjust to a reality where it has to evaluate and invest in 18-year-old players?
What’s rarely talked about is how it affects the players.
Change is likely coming to the NBA’s age limit rule — at this point, it’s sounds like a matter of when, not if. The league is reportedly looking to abolish the rule in time for the 2020 draft, which fits in with the suggestions recently made by Condoleezza Rice’s commission to clean up college basketball. If that timeline is followed, the players currently entering their junior year of high school would be the first class directly affected by it.
With Nike’s EYBL circuit and the Under Armour Association both making stops in Indianapolis this past weekend, SB Nation talked to the top high school players in the country about their thoughts on the NBA age limit, the one-and-done rule, and any other changes they’d like to see made.
R.J. Hampton, No. 2 player in ESPN’s class of 2020 rankings
Hampton is a 6’5 point guard who was offered by Duke last week and has already captured a gold medal with USA Basketball during the U16 Americas Championship last summer.
SHOULD THE AGE LIMIT BE ABOLISHED? “That’s something I would like to see a lot. I feel like with all the scandal and stuff going on in college, I don’t see why you shouldn’t let 18-year-olds come out and go straight to the league. If kids love basketball this much, they should be able to be paid for it.”
WOULD YOU CONSIDER GOING PRO IF IT WAS ABOLISHED? “Definitely. If I’m getting the right feedback, and I think I have a good chance of getting drafted, I would definitely explore that option. That’s my dream, so I would never turn that down.”
Scottie Barnes, No. 5 player in ESPN’s class of 2020 rankings
The Florida native is a 6’8 forward who can defend four or five positions and already handles and passes like a guard. Barnes is another USA Basketball veteran, and a rare player who got a scholarship offer from John Calipari and Kentucky before he finished his sophomore year of high school.
SHOULD THE AGE LIMIT BE ABOLISHED? “If you want to go to the NBA straight out of high school you should be able to. I absolutely agree with that.”
WOULD YOU CONSIDER GOING PRO IF IT WAS ABOLISHED? “It’s always going to be something to look into if you’re in the right position to do it. Me personally, I think I want to go through the college experience and see what that’s like.”
Tyrese Maxey, No. 14 player in ESPN’s class of 2019 rankings
As an incoming senior, Maxey is a year too old to make the jump to the NBA out of high school, if the rumored rule change goes through by then. But he’s still been thinking about the age minimum.
SHOULD THE AGE MINIMUM BE ABOLISHED? “I think if you’re ready after high school, you should be able to go. And if you’re ready after one year of college, you should be able to go. It should really just be whenever you’re ready after you turn 18. You should be able to go to the NBA whenever you’re ready.”
WHO WOULD BE “READY AFTER HIGH SCHOOL? “I played against Marvin Bagley last year, and I knew he shouldn’t be playing in college. He was way too good. He could have been playing in the league last year. Guys like that can make the jump.”
Scottie Lewis, No. 8 player in ESPN’s class of 2019 rankings
Lewis is a veteran of the elite high school scene. The New Jersey native has been touted as one of the top players in his class since the 2019 player rankings first came out. He’s also a prospect who has been more vocal about this issue than many players his age.
SHOULD THE AGE MINIMUM BE ABOLISHED? “I definitely think players should be allowed to go right to the NBA.”
WHY SHOULD IT BE ABOLISHED? “There’s just so much talent in grassroots basketball. If their No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA, they shouldn’t have to take the step to play in college.
“Staying one year in college doesn’t really do much for anyone, from the colleges standpoint or the players’ standpoint.”
WOULD YOU HAVE CONSIDERED GOING PRO IF THE AGE MINIMUM DIDN’T EXIST? “Me personally, I think the college experience is great, but a guy like Marvin Bagley, Zion Williamson, those dominant players who can play at that next level efficiently, should take that step forward and go right to the NBA.”
Bryan Antoine, No. 7 player in ESPN’s class of 2019 rankings
Antoine, a 6’6 wing from New Jersey, is Lewis’ high school and grassroots teammate. He holds offers from Duke, Villanova, Kansas, and every other power player in college basketball.
SHOULD THE AGE MINIMUM BE ABOLISHED? “A college coach told me that the NBA stands for No Boys Allowed. So if you invite 16- and 17-year-olds to come straight from high school to the NBA, it’s going to be — I don’t want to say it would be a softer league, but anytime you see younger players instead of like big stocky 25-year-olds, I don’t know if the NBA would be as fun with high school players.”
IS THERE ANYONE WHO CAN MAKE THE JUMP? “Unless you have a big frame and the skill set down pat, you shouldn’t consider that step to skip from high school to the NBA. If you aren’t physically ready or emotionally ready, I don’t think you should consider going to the NBA.”
Julian Strawther, No. 17 player in ESPN’s class of 2020 rankings
Strawther is a 6’6 wing playing for the Las Vegas Prospects on the EYBL, the same program who recently produced likely first-round draft pick Troy Brown, who spent his freshman year at Oregon.
SHOULD PLAYERS BE ALLOWED TO GO PRO OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL? “I feel like it’s a decision you should be able to make just based on what you want to do with your career.”
WOULD YOU HAVE CONSIDERED IT IF YOU COULD? “Personally, I feel like college is a big part of growing and developing to get to the next level and be successful. I probably wouldn’t consider [jumping from high school to the pros]. I feel like college is a great set up to get to the league.”
Patrick Williams, No. 49 player in ESPN’s class of 2019 rankings
Williams is a rising senior playing for Team United on the EYBL. While he won’t be in position to make the NBA jump out of high school as a member of the class of 2019, he has been in around the circuit long enough to know who could make the leap and who couldn’t.
SHOULD PLAYERS BE ALLOWED TO GO PRO OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL? “I think high school players should be able to go, because if you’re good enough, what’s the point in holding you back?”
WHO COULD DO IT IF THEY WERE ALLOWED? “In the younger class, Kyree Walker may be able to do it. Jalen Green may be able to do it.”
Walker, an Arizona State commit, is a 17-year old who already looks like he’s 25. Green is currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the 2020 class. He wasn’t in Indianapolis this weekend as a member of the Adidas circuit, but he has already gone on record saying he’d want to go pro if he’s allowed to.