CHICAGO - Darius Bazley isn't out to change the college basketball landscape or even inspire other young players.
As a potential preps-to-pros player and former five-star recruit, the 6-foot-9 forward from Cincinnati is a unique athlete trying to win over NBA scouts without having played last season.
He decommitted from Syracuse. He reneged on his initial idea to play in the G League. Unlike other players in the past who skipped college looking for an alternate route to the NBA, he didn't play overseas for a year either.
Instead, Bazley was on no team and worked as an intern for New Balance in a carefully constructed endorsement deal that will pay $1 million. But don't call him a pioneer.
"I'm not a basketball activist," Bazley said this week at the NBA draft combine at Quest Multisport in Chicago. "I just did what was best for me. I think the options for players, there's a lot of them. They're out there."
But until the NBA changes its age-limit rule - which it's expected to do in the near future - players who aren't keen on playing in college for a year must get creative.
Jalen Lecque, who also participated at the combine, played at the New Hampshire prep school Brewster Academy as a fifth-year high school student last season. He still can withdraw from the draft by the May 29 deadline and fulfill a scholarship awaiting him at North Carolina State.
Lecque, a 6-3 guard from New York, was a top-35 recruit in the 2019 class. He apparently performed well enough Thursday, recording the event's top vertical leap of 43 inches, and opted out of Friday's scrimmages.
"There are other options to get here (besides college)," Lecque said. "I'm just trying to fulfill my dream of trying to get to the NBA. If I have to go to college to do it, I just want to get there and be successful there."
The rules that have steered high school players to attend college for at least a year are shifting.
Currently, players must be 19 years old and one year removed from their original high school class to be eligible for the NBA draft. That system essentially has created the era of the one-and-done player who competes in college as a freshman before jumping to the pros.
The NBA submitted a formal proposal to the National Basketball Players Association to lower the eligibility age to 18, a rule change that many expect to kick in before the 2022 draft.
New rules by the NCAA's board of governors and Division I board of directors following an FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting allow players to hire agents for the draft process and retain their eligibility. Under previous rules, players with remaining college eligibility could not hire an agent, and if they did, they forfeited their option to return to school.
"There shouldn't be any barriers," Lecque said. "If a guy is ready his senior year (of high school), go. If a guy is not ready, go to college. I feel like there should be a choice."
As players await more changes, a few carve out their own paths.
Brandon Jennings was the first to find a loophole after the NBA imposed the age-limit rule in 2006. He skipped college and played in Italy for a year before entering the 2009 draft, in which the Bucks selected him 10th.
Emmanuel Mudiay opted out of his commitment to SMU and played in China before being selected No. 7 by the Nuggets in 2015. Terrance Ferguson decommitted from Louisville and played in Australia before the Thunder drafted him at No. 21 in 2017.
Anfernee Simons sat out a year and was selected 24th in the 2018 draft by the Trail Blazers. Mitchell Robinson was taken 36th in that draft after decommitting from Western Kentucky to work on his game.
Certain elite prospects who are at least 18 can sign G League "select contracts" of $125,000. Bazley reconsidered after saying that was his plan.
"At the time I was about 190 (pounds)," said Bazley, who weighed in at 208.4 pounds at the combine. "To go to the grit and grind of a league like that, to be thrown in that, might not have been best for me. The G League doesn't have a high reputation for its travel and how they eat and how they're treated. We didn't think the best was for me to be a kid thrown into man's league."
Lecque, who will turn 19 in June, understands he needs to develop to be an NBA point guard. But he said his athleticism and maturity will help him in the NBA - if he goes that route.
Lecque said he's in a win-win situation right now as he decides his next step: a year in college or trying the pros.
"It's a little tough to throw a four-year scholarship away," he said. "Just having a scholarship to a school is an accomplishment itself. When the NBA calls, you answer. I didn't want to dismiss it. You never know. Guys get picked up nobody knows all the time."
Fans have strong opinions on whether players should have to play at least a year in college before heading to the NBA. Players being paid in college is also a divisive issue among fans but can drive some players from school.
"I lot of people disagree with making this decision, people saying I'm not ready, people saying I'm too young," Lecque said. "But I've always dealt with that."
To players in similar situations, Lecque said his unique path to the NBA is a viable one.
"I would recommend at least try it," he said. "What's the worst-case scenario? Go to school. And that's not worst-case. I'm not stressing over it. It's basketball. I'm going to get better."