The NBA has submitted a proposal to lower its age limit from 19 to 18, according to a report from USA Today.
The change would likely go into effect in 2022 if approved by the NBA Players Association, and would change the one-and-done era of college basketball as we know it.
Generational talents like Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson would be able to enter the NBA Draft straight out of high school, no longer needing to use college as a one-year stepping stone into the NBA. That was the way it used to work until 2006 when the NBA raised its age limit from 18 to 19.
The Arizona Wildcats are no strangers to one-and-dones, having the likes of Ayton, Lauri Markkanen, Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, and Kobi Simmons pass through their program in recent years.
The Wildcats have benefitted from having such talented players, to be sure, but head coach Sean Miller called the one-and-done culture “upside down” back in 2016 and athletic director Dave Heeke said last July that he is a “strong advocate” of lowering the age limit to 18.
“I think it’s a flaw in the system to say that someone cannot go, even though they can handle it, they’re talented enough to play in the NBA,” Heeke said.
“To somehow say, okay, hey universities, you have to hold them for a year puts a tremendous amount of stress on our system. It’s not designed for a holding pattern when the reality is the focus is we’re going to be here (for four years).”
Heeke added: “When you’re just a one-and-done, you can’t get engaged in what is fundamental, I believe, to the overall experience, and that’s the educational piece of it. Look, sports are great. The athletic side is awesome, you want to compete at the very highest level, But our model is you’re also going to do that in an academic environment. You’re going to pursue a meaningful degree and work toward graduation. I also really believe that the longer that we can keep them, even though they do leave early, they can come back when things don’t go right and finish their degree and have one.
“So the closer we can get them to a degree, the better. I hope we can get to at least two years, maybe three years.”
Lowering the age limit would not completely expunge one-and-dones from college basketball, though. An example that comes to mind is Markkanen, who reportedly planned to be at Arizona for two years, but was unwilling to pass up a chance to be a lottery pick after a strong freshman season.