NBA, NCAA, NBPA, USA Basketball take next step in killing one-and-done with elite prospect program

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When the NCAA announced its new recruitment rules this summer NBA executives rolled their eyes, the main reason being a lot of the mechanisms the NCAA talked about were not yet in place or even worked out. The NCAA jumped the gun to get some good PR.

The most crucial thing missing: A system to identify elite prospects and then plans to develop and guide them.

That, however, is about to change, with the announcement Wednesday of USA Basketball’s expansion of its Men’s Junior National Team program. The change is coming in partnership with the NBA, the NCAA, and the NBA players’ union (NBPA).

For fans, what this means is the one-and-done rule is on its death bed. Within three or four years (the 2021 or 2022 draft, so this year’s high school freshmen) one-and-done will be gone, high schoolers can go straight to the NBA again (although what that may look like on the NCAA’s end, for the players who attend college, is still up for debate).

About 20 players from each class — so 80 in total from the four high school years — will take part in six training camps and international competitions throughout the 2018-19 calendar year to kick off the program. While USA Basketball has brought in players for international competitions in the past (under-16 events, under-18 events, etc.) this is an expansion of that program with additional training camps and year-round player development programming. More than just on-the-court hoops, these camps will also focus on health and wellness — access to athletic trainers, doctors, etc. — plus life skills.

While this runs under the auspices of USA Basketball it works for the NBA because it gives teams a chance to get a closer look at these elite players for a longer period of time. Evaluation of high school talent is very difficult for a lot of reasons, but at the top of the list is these elite players are so much better than the high school/AAU talent they go up against scouts don’t always learn a lot watching them. This kind of setting is different.

“Providing these talented young players with additional training and off-court programming will enhance the Junior National Team’s proven development pathway,” said Kathy Behrens, NBA President, Social Responsibility and Player Programs. “We are looking forward to working with USA Basketball, the NBPA and the NCAA to collectively provide the resources and development opportunities for Junior National Team athletes to reach their full potential on and off the court.”

The life skills workshops will not be just for players but for parents/guardians trying to help their sons navigate tricky waters.

“It’s a natural fit to take the excellent life skills instruction and off-court development programs we provide for NBA players and stretch them out so that we can provide support and guidance to young, developing talent,” said Michele Roberts, NBPA Executive Director. “This is an effort that is long overdue.”

This new program also works for the NCAA because it identifies the elite prospects they talk about who will be able to have conversations with agents during their senior year of high school and take other steps toward a professional career.

There’s still a lot of questions remaining, and the league is rightfully being cautious and slow about it, but one-and-done is on its way out in the NBA.