ATLANTA – As high school seniors, Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine cannot declare for the NBA Draft right out of Ranney School.
But, what if they could?
The NBA did away with the preps-to-pros phenomenon after the 2005 Draft. Since then, players entering the draft must be 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school. In February, USA TODAY reported the NBA and NBPA were working towards getting the draft-eligible age changed from 19 to 18. The new age limit, if agreed upon by the two sides as part of the collective bargaining agreement, would be in place in time for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Fresh off winning the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, Lewis and Antoine are in Atlanta this week to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. If this were three years from now, they might be deciding between college and the NBA. As it is, Lewis is headed to Florida in the fall, Antoine to Villanova, but what if?
“I’d say it would depend because you have to see what the draft class is,” Ranney head coach Tahj Holden said. “Coming out with Zion (Williamson), Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, guys that have proven themselves on the college level, it’s hard for our guys to jump any of those guys when they’ve only played a high school schedule. You really have to sit down and examine it.
“I would say they probably need at least a year of college, just from a strength and conditioning perspective. You’re not going to get that in the NBA. You have to find a personal trainer, you really have to do that stuff on your own. In college, there’s a program set up for you, and it’s a good nine months of getting in the weight room and doing what you need to do.”
But Lewis said he has focused less on his body because he won’t be going straight to the NBA.
“Players like myself, Zion, and Bryan, people who are expected to play in the NBA, they’ve had to do things differently as far as their training goes,” Lewis said. “I think now, since my class can’t go one-and-done, I think we’ve worked on more skills than our physicality. If we could go one-and-done, I think we would’ve worked more on our bodies to be able to compete at that level.
“If that was the case, I think a lot of guys would make the jump instead of wasting time in college.”
Already on the NBA radar, Lewis and Antoine will work out four times this week for NBA personnel, including Wednesday night’s game at State Farm Arena. One still-too-early 2020 Draft projection by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Lewis as the No. 4 pick and Antoine at No. 10. Both slots are higher than where both kids were even 10 weeks ago after strong showings for Ranney against stiff competition.
As Holden points out, It would be hard for any decision-maker to select Lewis or Antoine over a more seasoned player, even if it is just a college freshman. The fact they are projected so high in 2020 would seem to indicate that they would at least be in the mix as first-rounders, if not lottery picks this June.
“It depends. Are they talented enough? Sure,” Holden said. “The running joke is NBA stands for “No Boys Allowed.” Are they boys or are they men yet? You could make that argument. I think they probably need another year of development, but if they were projected to be Lottery picks? Can I see it? Yeah, but the key is getting that second contract and sticking around. You don’t want to just get there and be done in three years.”
“I have thought about it, but I feel like the whole college process is in the best interest for most athletes,” Antoine said. “It really depends on the situation. If the player wants to get paid to help out his family or something like that, he should go to the NBA. I’m speaking for myself when I say, as a 6-4, 6-5 kid, if I spent one year in college, I could be 6-5, 200-something. Adding weight and growing can only help me down the road in the NBA.”