- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2005

DENVER — NBA management has tossed around the idea of placing a minimum age ” 20 ” on players entering the league.

It has been a touchy topic before, and it likely will be again as the players union and management try to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.

If anything, tomorrow’s 54th All-Star Game appears to buttress the players’ position that an age minimum isn’t necessary: Seven of the American-born players, including LeBron James, never set foot in a college classroom.

“I think that if a guy shows he has the skill to play at the next level he should be allowed to play in the NBA,” Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire said. “If you look at the guys in the game, a lot of us didn’t need to go to college, and we are doing fine.”

Although James is getting most of the attention, Stoudemire is a perfect example of a player who didn’t need college to fine tune his game.

In his third season, the ninth pick in the 2002 draft is fourth in the league in scoring (26.2) and is shooting 57 percent from the floor. One of three All-Stars representing the Suns ” Steve Nash and Shawn Marion are the others ” Stoudemire hopes the pipeline between high school and the NBA continues to flourish.

“There are always going to be guys who are ready to play; there are guys who aren’t,” Stoudemire said. “I know I would be disappointed if I had that opportunity taken away from me.”

James, selected by Cleveland with the top pick in 2003, pointed to the 2004 draft as evidence some high school players are ready to both contribute and acclimate themselves to the rigors of pro basketball. Eight of the first 19 picks came directly out of high school, including top selection Dwight Howard of Orlando.

“I think it’s looking pretty good this year,” James said. “The guys in this draft are doing very well, and they are going to get better as the year goes on. I think it’s a good thing.”

A good thing he doesn’t want to see end.

“If guys are thinking about doing it, they can come and talk to me,” James said. “I feel like it’s an obligation of mine to inform those guys. Hopefully it won’t change.”

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