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High school prospect Makur Maker eligible for NBA draft, if he applies

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High school prospect Makur Maker will be eligible for the 2020 NBA draft if he applies as an early-entry candidate, according to a memo distributed to NBA teams by the league office.

The memo also included a revised agreement to the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association regarding the draft eligibility of players similar to Maker.

Moving forward, U.S.-based players such as Maker — who have not yet graduated high school but otherwise meet the standard criteria of being 19 years old in the calendar year of the draft and one NBA season removed from the originally scheduled graduation date of their initial high school class — will not be eligible for that year’s draft.

The intent of this clarification is to narrow the scope of players who can become draft eligible and prevent situations in which it is advantageous to drop out of high school before getting a diploma, something that technically would make Maker eligible for the 2020 draft under the previous version of the rule. Because Maker was two credits short of receiving a high school diploma from Orange (California) Lutheran High School, where he was enrolled during the 2018-19 season, he needed to petition the NBA for inclusion by submitting high school transcripts to the league office.

According to the new CBA language, the draft eligibility of players who have not graduated high school will be determined by the later of: the class which the player would have graduated based on the high school class he was in when he (i) first enrolled in high school, or (ii) was last enrolled in high school.

Maker will be considered 2020 draft-eligible since he petitioned under the previous version of the rule, but similar prospects would only be eligible for the 2021 draft if they are currently enrolled in high school. NBA teams would not be allowed to attend high school games of “draft-ineligible” players of this nature due to the “no-contact” rules, the memo clarified.

The previous lack of clarity here had caused considerable confusion among NBA teams about which high school players were draft-eligible and allowed to be scouted, but this rule clarification is not expected to have a major impact on the 2020 draft. Since petitioning the NBA for draft eligibility in October, Maker proceeded to have several poor showings in front of executives at events such as the Tarkanian Classic and Hoophall Classic in December and January, which diminished his draft stock to the point that he is now considered a late second-round pick at best.

Maker, who was once ranked in the 30s of the ESPN 100, now finds himself at No. 77, making him increasingly likely to attend college next year, according to his guardian Ed Smith, who told ESPN that Maker will only keep his name in the draft if he is projected as a lottery pick.

Maker will have two opportunities to improve his standing in front of NBA teams at certified scouting events in the Iverson Classic and Nike Hoop Summit in April, where a large contingent of executives will be in attendance.



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Dayton sophomore Obi Toppin to enter NBA draft

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Dayton sophomore Obi Toppin is entering the 2020 NBA draft, he announced in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday.

“I hope everyone is safe and healthy during the current situation going on in the world, the COVID-19. I would like to share the news with you guys that I will be signing with an agent and foregoing my college eligibility by entering the 2020 NBA Draft,” Toppin said.

Toppin, the No. 9 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, emerged as a national player of the year candidate as a redshirt sophomore, averaging 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 70 percent from 2-point range and 39 percent from 3 for a Dayton team that was projected by Joe Lunardi to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before the season was canceled.

Toppin was one of the most productive and exciting players in the college game, rocketing up draft boards at the Maui Invitational in November thanks to his high-flying dunks, deep 3s and on-court charisma. Standing only 6-2 as a high school junior, Toppin sat out his freshman season at Dayton as an academic redshirt before winning Atlantic-10 rookie of the year honors last year.



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USC freshman Onyeka Okongwu opts to enter NBA draft

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USC freshman Onyeka Okongwu is entering the 2020 NBA draft, he announced Wednesday.

“I am declaring for the draft, forgoing my final three years of school [and] planning on signing with an agent in the near future,” Okongwu told ESPN in a text message.

Okongwu also posted a message to social media on Wednesday, thanking USC coaches and fans and saying “all good things must come to an end” and that he wants “to take the next step when the opportunity presents itself.”

Okongwu, the No. 6 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, emerged as one of the top big men in college basketball while earning All-Pac-12 first-team honors.

“These past couple weeks have been crazy, but I’m happy to be able to be able back home in Chino under quarantine with my family,” Okongwu told ESPN. “Every fitness center and gym is closed, so besides being at home doing things, I haven’t really been able to work out as much.”

Okongwu averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals for the Trojans, establishing himself as one of the most versatile defenders in the country and vastly exceeding early expectations.

“The virus is a serious matter and putting a lot of things on hold, but being healthy and staying safe is more important,” Okongwu said. “I’m not sure how the pre-draft process will be now. There is a lot of uncertainty. I’m just doing my part right now, staying home waiting for everything to blow over. The more people who do this, the faster it’ll be for everything to go back to normal. I continue to pray to God that everyone gets healthy and stays safe.”

Okongwu first emerged in recruiting circles as a freshman on the Chino Hills team that took high school basketball by storm with Lonzo, LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball. Okongwu flew somewhat under the radar during his high school career despite putting up big numbers on the Adidas Circuit for the Compton Magic, missing much of his junior season with an injury, which caused him to not be selected for any of the prestigious high school all-star games as the No. 20 ranked recruit in the ESPN 100.

He quickly emerged as the Trojans’ best all-around player and a clear lottery prospect, ranking fifth in Player Efficiency Rating among likely draft prospects. He also was the only player in the country to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 3.0 blocks per 40 minutes.

Some NBA scouts feel Okongwu could ultimately end up as the best big man to come out of the 2020 draft due to his high basketball IQ, terrific defensive versatility and his ability to finish explosively around the basket, which has helped draw comparisons to Miami Heat all-star Bam Adebayo due to his similar dimensions and style of play.



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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hopes NBA can return in mid-May

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he hopes the NBA resumes playing games in May, saying that the league’s restart can help bring people together amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview published Tuesday by Dallas television station WFAA, Cuban cited “people I’ve talked to at the CDC and other places” for his admittedly optimistic projection.

“No one has perfect information right now, so all decisions are tough, but if I had to guess based off the people I’ve talked to at the CDC and other places, I would say that the over-under [for a restart] would be June 1, and I’m taking the under,” Cuban told WFAA.

“Hopefully by the middle of May we’re starting to get back to normal and the NBA is playing games, maybe not with fans [in attendance], but we’re playing games.”

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this month that the NBA was bracing for the possibility of a return in mid-to-late June as a best-case scenario, but Cuban hopes the games resume sooner.

“Sports plays such an important role,” Cuban said. “People want something to root for, people want something to rally around. People want something to be excited about, and if the Mavs and the NBA in general can get out there and start playing games in May so that they’re on TV, sports is what we need right now.”

The NBA suspended the season indefinitely on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. At least 14 members of NBA organizations had tested positive for the virus as of Monday.

The NBA has not formally announced a projected date for return, but Cuban said he expects the league to “lead the way out of this.”

“I’m proud of the NBA and the way we’ve reacted,” he said. “We’ve led the way and hopefully will lead the way out of this. … I think we’re coming together as a community, particularly in north Texas. But I think we need [sports], and I think the NBA is ready to play that role.”

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