An announcement Wednesday of a joint partnership among the four main stakeholders in basketball in the United States — the NBA, NCAA, the National Basketball Players Association and USA Basketball — of an expansion of USA Basketball’s men’s junior national team program is the NBA’s latest step toward active involvement in the lives of American teenage basketball players.
The move comes in the wake of the NCAA’s surprise announcement earlier this month that USA Basketball would be taking the lead on determining which elite prospects would be allowed to work with agents before their senior year of high school and is the first time all four have collaborated in such a way.
It is yet another sign that the age requirement to enter the NBA — the so-called “one-and-done” rule — is headed out.
After the rule was adopted with the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, the NBA gladly pulled its scouts from high school gyms, putting a stop to its participation in youth basketball. As the league prepares for life without the rule, it has gradually been getting involved in players’ lives at an earlier age.
Wednesday’s announcement is also not the first collaboration between the organizations on youth basketball. In April, the NBA partnered with the NCAA for what was called “Next Generation Sunday” during the Final Four in San Antonio. The event saw elite high schoolers get a behind-the-scenes look at the NCAA’s marquee event while also playing in games against players from four teams created from prospects involved with the NBA’s international academies in Africa, Australia, China and Latin America.
In March, the NBA partnered with USA Basketball to announce a new set of age-appropriate rules and standards for youth basketball competitions, which were aimed at enhancing player development at lower rungs of the sport — something NBA Commisioner Adam Silver has taken an interest in.
That theme was again hit upon in Wednesday’s announcement, which stated that 20 players from each high school class will participate in six events — either camps or competitions — throughout the calendar year.
The program also will feature the players being introduced into a health and wellness program that will be run by longtime Boston Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte. In addition to the player component, there also will be an emphasis on working with the families of players so that they are prepared for the stresses that come with being recruited by collegiate programs and preparing for the NBA draft.
While there are still details to be sorted out, what’s clear is that the NBA is making what appears to be a permanent move into the youth basketball scene. Earlier this month, it held the first edition of its Jr. NBA World Championship, which featured 14-and-under teams from across the country and around the world, in a similar format to the Little League World Series.
The NBA has high hopes that the tournament, in time, will hold a similar appeal to its baseball counterpart.
The league has also stressed an emphasis on working with these elite prospects from health, wellness and life skills standpoints, to help them be better prepared for the rigors of playing professionally.
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