The NBA and its union agreed Tuesday on a new collective bargaining agreement, which will set the age minimum for American players to 19, plus one year removed from high school.
Players who spend a year in prep school following high school will be draft eligible as long as they graduated from high school the previous year and will turn 19 the year they're drafted.
Foreign players, on the other hand, must turn 19 during the calendar year they are declaring for the draft to be eligible.
Under this agreement, Lawrence North (Indianapolis, Ind.) center Greg Oden, the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports.com, will have to play college ball for at least one year even though he likely would have been the top pick in next year's draft — not to mention the No. 1 pick in this year's and last year's drafts.
Ditto North College Hill (Cincinnati, Ohio) guard O.J. Mayo, even though he'll be 19 when he graduates from high school. Rated the No. 1 player in the Class of 2007 by SchoolSports.com, Mayo was projected as the top pick in the 2007 draft.
Had this ruling been in effect two years ago, LeBron James would have been ineligible for the draft. Same goes for all the preps-to-pros stars that preceded him, such as Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
Tuesday's ruling will go into effect for the 2006 draft. Currently, American players are eligible for the draft the year their high school class graduates no matter their age.
For example, St. Joseph's (Metuchen, N.J.) center Andrew Bynum is eligible to be drafted this year even though he is only 17.
He is one of eight ballers from the Class of 2005 expected to be drafted June 28 after two prep stars withdrew from the draft at the 11th hour Tuesday, the last day early entrants could take their names out of the draft pool.
Paperwork is still trickling in, and there's a slim chance Westchester (Los Angeles) power forward Amir Johnson also took his name out of the draft, though it's unlikely.
On the other hand, South Gwinnett (Snellville, Ga.) guard Louis Williams and Skyline (Dallas, Texas) guard C.J. Miles both reportedly kept their names in their draft even though neither of them have hired agents nor will be first-round selections.
Seattle Prep (Seattle, Wash.) guard Martell Webster, Lanier (Jackson, Miss.) guard Monta Ellis, South Kent Prep (South Kent, Conn.) forward Andray Blatche and Gulf Shores Academy (Houston, Texas) guard Gerald Green have all hired agents and are definitely staying in the draft. They are all expected to be first-rounders.