Montverde Academy (Fla.) boys basketball coach Kevin Boyle has coached five players drafted in the NBA Draft’s top three, including two No. 1 overall picks.
He thinks senior guard R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 high school basketball player in the country, could be his third and reputable NBA mock drafts cosign that assertion.
Still, with the NBA 19-year-old age limit, Barrett will head to Duke for a year before likely shaking hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver in 2019.
That could all change with the NBA reportedly looking to offer a possible alternative to college for elite high school basketball players like Barrett.
An ESPN report on Monday said that the NBA is exploring giving 18-year-olds the option to “earn a meaningful salary either from NBA teams or as part of an enhanced option in the developmental G League.”
The general consensus among elite high school players is that they want the option even if they opt for college in the end.
Nine of the top 20 players in the ESPN 100 for 2018 are projected for the NBA Draft lottery in 2019.
“A lot of people need the money for their family,” Greenfield School (Wilson, N.C.) point guard Coby White, a five-star prospect, said. “Some people are ready too. I definitely think we need to be able to make our own decision on that.”
Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) wing Keldon Johnson concurred and predicted that “most” elite players would see the NBA’s alternative as a viable option.
“I would’ve been excited by that option,” said Johnson, a senior five-star prospect who is signed to Kentucky. “I mean that’s all of our dreams so of course that would excite most of us.”
The report went on to say that the NBA is intent on connecting with elite high school players early on and improving its development possibly through USA Basketball.
Makes sense since almost every five-star prospect in the 2018 class has either competed on one of USA Basketball’s national teams or participated in their minicamps.
“I love the fact that the highest organization in basketball is gonna reach out in a meaningful way to grassroots,” ESPN director of basketball recruiting Paul Biancardi said. “I think if they can educate those kids early about the game, life, money and other things it will help them immensely. That education can help to eliminate middlemen. When you give people the right knowledge you empower them.”
Oak Hill coach Steve Smith has had more than 25 players drafted to the NBA since 1980 and said that, “more than anything” he likes the fact that this scenario would give elite players more options.
“It’s better than it is right now, which is basically no options,” Smith said. “I’ve had players in the past who would’ve benefited a great deal from having this in place so I think it’s a good thing if they go ahead with it.”
Still, while White loves the idea of having the option to make money after his high school graduation, he’s not sure the masses will flock to it.
Like most players in the 2018 class, White was only 6 years old when the NBA implemented its age limit in 2006, so, in essence, all he and his peers have ever known about their dream of one day suiting up in the NBA was that a college stint preceded it.
“I grew up only thinking about going to college,” said White, a North Carolina signee. “I’m not in a big hurry to be an adult and pay my own bills. They say college is the most fun time of your life so I’ve always wanted to experience it.”
Apple Valley (Minn.) point guard Tre Jones shared those sentiments.
Jones watched his older brother Tyus Jones have the dream season as a freshman at Duke in 2015, leading the Blue Devils to the national title and earning Most Outstanding Player honors before entering the NBA Draft and being picked No. 24 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“That’s the dream,” Tre said.
That said, Tre said if high school players were allowed to “test the waters” the way college players are it would make the prospect of going pro more attractive.
Per NCAA rules, college players on the early entry list are allowed to attend the NBA draft combine and workout for NBA teams and not lose eligibility as long as they don’t hire an agent.
“That could work better because then you’re getting the right feedback from the right people,” Tre said. “That’s important for any player, but especially for a younger guy who just left high school. The key with all of this is options though. That’s what’s been missing.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY