Over the past few years, the NCAA has focused a lot of attention of prep schools and their role in preparing student athletes to enter NCAA member institutions. Unfortunately, this attention has resulted in a loss of accreditation to some of the more obvious "basketball factories" and other prep schools have been put on notice to improve their curriculum. In keeping with this trend, the NCAA has recently adopted tough rules which could possibly have far reaching implications to 5th year seniors looking to use prep schools as a way to become eligible for a 4 year college program.
These changes will not have much of an impact on athletes that qualify within 4 years based on the necessary "core" classes and minimum test scores (ACT or SAT). These changes will apply to those students whose grades during their 4 year high school career are not good enough to gain eligibility to an NCAA school.
Under the old rules, a player could reclassify as a 5th year senior and use those that extra year to improve the grades of any number of "core classes" that are required to become eligible. The new guidelines only allow a 5th year senior to improve the grades in ONE "core class", which will severely limit the amount of students who will be able to use this option to gain eligibility. If a student simply needs the extra year to mature physically or improve their test scores, they will still find the prep school option quite valuable, but these types of players are by far the minority.
For the majority of unqualifyed seniors, the "core" classes are the main issue and are typically a result of a player who didn't take the first few years of high school as serious as they probably should have. These students will now be forced to enter the Junior College ranks for two years and then possibly transferring to a NCAA school for the remaining two years of eligibility. They will no longer be allowed to use the prep school as a defacto "redshirt" year as they work on their "core" classes to get the required GPA.
This means one thing....JUCO programs are going to be much better and much more important to NCAA schools. The high major programs who typically pay little attention to JUCO transfers will likely start to develop contacts in the JUCO ranks in hopes of attracting the former prep school standouts. It also stands to reason that many "one and done" type players who would prep one season in years past may simply go to JUCO for a year, sit out to work on skills, or even go overseas to prepare for the next level. NBA scouts will be paying much more attention to these teams if this becomes a major part of college basketball.
There are a couple of things that may cause these issues to be less impactful. First, it seems that the NCAA will be granting waivers for the next few classes if a player claims to have been planning on a prep school 5th year as part of his plan to enter college. Second, if a player is diagnosed by a medical doctor as learning disabled, it is doubtful that the NCAA will enforce this new policy. In case you are wondering, it is not hard for these students to gain this diagnosis, and the NCAA has a history of staying FAR away from anything that could result in a lawsuit.
It will be interesting to watch and see how these new guidelines shape the future of college basketball. I do understand what the NCAA is trying to accomplish, but I'm not satisfied that they have found the best way to go about it. The next couple of years will almost certainly be interesting to watch.
Kentucky Sports Radio & www.ukuncensored.com