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NCAA reforms sound great, but will they make real difference on the ground?

Michael McCann details how the NCAA rule changes will affect agents, college football players, and USA Basketball.

NCAA has taken steps to start to catch up with the rest of the world in regards to hoops recruiting and players turning professional. Players identified as elite by USA Basketball can have conversations with agents starting July 1 entering their senior season of high school (once the NBA announces high school players will be eligible for the draft again, likely in 2021 or ’22). Also, players who go undrafted will have the chance to return to college and play.

These are smart moves. On paper. But the devil is in the details, and those seem to be amiss. For example, did the NCAA reach out to USA Basketball, the NBA, or the NBA players’ union about any of this?

No, something others reported and I can confirm.

Or, will the ability to return to college really make big changes on the ground for players?

No, not much.

That’s because there’s a caveat: Players invited to the NBA’s official Draft Combine who go undrafted can return to college. There are around 60 players a season invited to that camp, and that includes international players, and the majority get feedback that keeps them in the draft. Some players this season went to the combine (without an agent), got feedback from teams, then decided to return to college before the NCAA’s deadline. That’s not going to change much.

So every year, a couple of players who went undrafted may decide to return to college.

However, this does not mean a player not invited to the Combine can just throw his hat in the ring then return to the next season at whatever university he attends. This rule change sounds great, but we’re really talking about a handful of players who will have a choice to make.

Also, “elite” is defined by getting an invite to a USA Basketball camp, except the NCAA gave USA Basketball no heads up about that, and they may not want the job.

The NCAA’s rule changes — particularly in terms of letting agents and players talk, but also increased recruiting visits and more — are positives, but this seems rushed through and these changes are no panacea. The flow of money from shoe companies and agents to players and those who can influence them is not going to stop, it’s just going to find new avenues.

Also, the rules do not allow players to benefit from their likeness — they can’t sign endorsement deals — and that will keep the illicit money flowing. The basic model of amateurism needs to be addressed, but the NCAA and its member institutions are not ready for that conversation because the big schools make too much money off the current system.