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Jahlil Okafor, top recruit in class of 2014: Raising NBA's age limit unfair to players

Jahil Okafor Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2014, is committed to Duke. (Kelly Kline/Getty Images)

CHICAGO -- Commissioner Adam Silver has gone on the record about his desire to raise the NBA's age minimum to 20 years old. Rules instituted in the collective bargaining agreement stipulate that players must be at least 19 during the calendar year in which the draft takes place to be eligible, effectively forcing U.S. players to spend at least one year in college -- or the D-League or overseas -- and creating the maligned “one-and-done” phenomenon.

Several college coaches have expressed their support of an increased age minimum – including Kentucky’s John Calipari, whose program has thrived in recent years thanks to a steady supply of future first-round picks making single-season cameos in Lexington.

But what do current high school players who may have the opportunity to leave college for the pros after one year think about the possibility of raising the minimum to 20? One such player, center Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, said Tuesday that a 20-year old age limit would be unfair.

“I think it’s just withholding a kid’s dreams if they wanted to make that leap to the NBA to help their family or whatever the reason may be,” Okafor said.

Okafor, who on Tuesday was named the Morgan Wooten Player of the Year, is the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2014. Okafor verbally committed to Duke in November and is projected as the No. 1 pick in 2015 by DraftExpress.com. The 6-foot-10, 270-pound center said the potential change concerns him because he may consider leaving college after one year.

“I’ll definitely have the option of going to the NBA after my first year,” he said. “[The increased age minimum] is something that could potentially affect me also.”

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Silver and the NBA would need approval from the NBAPA, whose search for an executive director is ongoing, to make the change before 2017, when the NBAPA or NBA can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Former commissioner David Stern also expressed interest in raising the age minimum to 20, but the idea was put on the back burner during the last round of CBA negotiations in 2011 as the NBA and NBAPA hashed out pivotal financial issues in the interest of finalizing a deal and ending the work stoppage.

Jahlil’s father, Chuck, said he would have liked for his son to have the option to jump to the NBA straight out of high school, adding that some players are prepared to play in the pros at 18.

“That’s one option that was not available (to Jahlil) and that’s the tough part about it because you can’t even consider it at this point,” he said.
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