NCAA changes rule on NBA draft deadline – for the better

It’s going to be a lot easier for a college basketball player to see if he has what it takes to make it in the NBA without jeopardizing his collegiate career.

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced an immediate rule change that pushes back the date by which men’s basketball players must withdraw their names from the NBA draft pool.

Previously, college players had until the day before the spring signing period in early April, which prevented them from participating in the NBA pre-draft combine. With this change, players will be able to remain in the draft pool until 10 days after the combine — and be able to enter multiple drafts during their college careers without penalty.

Dan Guerrero, chair of the Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee and athletics director at UCLA, said the new rule would help students make decisions with as much information as possible.

“The cooperation between the NCAA, NBA and NABC was vital to the success of this idea. We reached an excellent outcome that will undoubtedly benefit every group involved, most importantly the student-athlete,” Guerrero said. “We all worked toward the same goal – providing students and their families with the opportunity to assess their future professional sports prospects in a realistic timeline. The rule change will allow students the chance to pursue their dreams while still preserving their ability to play collegiately.”

Players invited to the combine can now also work with their college coaches during that pre-draft period for up to 20 hours a week. Prior to this, college players could only spend eight hours per week with their coaches in April and May.

All this does is give the young men in question more choices and freedom. Players still can’t sign with agents and retain their eligibility. But there’s more time to rest between workouts and visit more teams. And the potential to spread the basketball-related activities over a larger window should theoretically afford more time for academics.

Granted, it’s a select group affected by the decision. Last year’s combine featured about 65 of the best draft-eligible players, including several top picks who didn’t participate. And a significant portion of that larger group is already locked into making the leap to the NBA. For the likes of Ben Simmons, this rule won’t mean much.

But for those considering a return to college, be it because they want to spend another year on campus or because teams just aren’t that interested, this change could make all the difference. It means there’s time to make an informed decision. And anything short of that fails the student-athletes.

If we’re concerned with what’s best for the players — or student-athletes, if that’s your preferred nomenclature — there’s no downside to this decision. In fact, it’s kind of embarrassing that it took this long to make such a logical change. 

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