Five years ago, when he was just a middle school hooper with potential, Isaiah Todd’s mom Marlene Venable told her then 12-year-old son to prepare himself because the opportunity would be there for him to go to the NBA straight out of high school after his senior year.
At the time in 2013, that path hadn’t been an option for high school players for seven years when the NBA’s age limit rule, which says you have to be 19 years old or one year removed from high school in order to declare for the draft, came into effect.
“I told her that I had to go to college because of the rule,” said Todd, a forward at Trinity Academy (Raleigh, N.C.). “She just looked at me seriously and said, trust me, the rule will be changed just in time for you.”
Most NBA insiders contend that Venable’s words may have proven to be prophetic after the independent Commission on College Basketball, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, presented recommendations to the NCAA to help it clean up the sport back in April.
One proposal was the call to do away with the one-and-done rule.
Experts believe that the 2020 class will have the option to go to the NBA out of high school.
“That’s amazing that she’s probably gonna be right,” said Todd, who is ranked No. 3 overall in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25 for 2020. “But, then again, she has that gift. I learned to listen to my mom a long time ago. It’s weird to think that I could have the option to go to the NBA in two years year.”
Todd’s sentiments are shared by most elite 2020 players who admit that they’ll be laser-focused on all aspects of the NBA Draft on Thursday.
“I’ll definitely pay more attention this year,” said Little Elm (Texas) point guard R.J. Hampton, who is ranked No. 2 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2020. “I watch it all the time, but I’ve never been two years away from having that option. That’s different.”
Like most elite players ranked near the top, Huntington Prep (W.Va.) forward Jaemyn Brakefield has the size (6-foot-9) and versatility that makes NBA scouts pay attention.
He said with the rumors swirling about the elimination of the one-and-done rule becoming more and more credible he’ll pay closer attention to all of the pre-draft action.
“I’ve been looking at all the testing the NBA guys do and the meetings guys have and the whole process,” Brakefield, who is ranked No. 4 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2020. “Not to say I’d enter the draft, but I think most guys would at least take a look at that option.”
That’s the general consensus among elite rising juniors who say that the realization of their ultimate dream would at least get some degree of consideration.
“We want to be up there in the nice suits shaking hands with the commissioner one day,” Todd said. “If that’s an option I’d look at it, but I’m planning to go to college. I think we’ll all be watching, imagining when it’s our time.”
San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, Calif.) combo guard Jalen Green said his NBA Draft daydreams will be confined to fashion.
“I definitely will be looking at what the guys are wearing and thinking about what I’d wear,” said Green, the top-ranked player in the Chosen 25 for 2020. “I don’t think too much past the fun stuff because I try and stay in the moment. I don’t like to get ahead of myself.”
McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) point guard Sharife Cooper can relate to that.
He said he won’t give a second thought to potentially shaking hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver; instead, he’ll be watching to see his friend Collin Sexton accomplish his dream.
Sexton is expected to be a lottery pick.
“I’m not thinking about the draft that deep,” said Cooper, who is ranked No. 10 overall in the Chosen 25. “Of course that’s my dream, but I’m focused on getting better and being the best right now.”
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.) shooting guard Scotty Pippen Jr. may have the best perspective on a player’s NBA-readiness since he’s learned under the tutelage of his 6-time NBA champion and Hall of Fame father Scottie Pippen.
Scotty Jr. said, in the event that the rumors about 2020 are true, he’s not fully convinced that there will be a mass exodus of players skipping college to try their luck with the NBA Draft unless the Commission on College Basketball’s recommendation to permit players to return to school in the event they go undrafted by the NBA isn’t implemented.
“If it’s how it is now, where once you’re in that’s it, I don’t think too many guys will jump out there and do it,” said Pippen, a rising senior. “I think you’ll just see like one guy every year doing it. Either way, I know we’ll all be watching on Thursday since things could be changing soon.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY