If the US Army lets 17 and 18-year-old join, why not the NBA? If a 17-year-old has million-dollar skills, why force him to risk a million-dollar injury playing at no cost while pretending to be a student? None of those ballyhooed European and South American NBA stars had to attend college; they went straight from high school into their nation's pro league. If a 17-year-old actor wants to learn Chaucer and Descartes, he can do so on his own, or at a university, while still taking million-dollar roles. Nothing prevents a similarly minded 17-year-old basketball player from doing the same... except the stupid NBA rule. Sadly, most 17-year-old basketball phenoms lack academic interest; forcing them into college, of course, does not force them to take, or engage in, meaningful academic work. What a sham.
The only real solution: universities must eliminate interscholastic competitions and the oxymoronic "athletic scholarships".