Paging Jermaine O’Neal!

The NBA Development League announced today that the league has instituted a new player eligibility rule that lowers the minimum age requirement to 18 years, effective with the 2006-07 D-League season.

A player is eligible to be signed to a D-League contract if he is or will be at least 18 years old during the calendar year in which the D-League Draft is held and his high school class has graduated. Also, the player may not have attended college in the United States in the academic year that takes place during the season covered by his D-League contract.

œWhile we believe that the college game is the best choice for the majority of players coming out of high school, not every player will have the ability or desire to pursue that route, D-League Vice-President of Player Development Michael Curry said. œThis new rule will now give players the option of playing minor league professional basketball in the United States.”

The D-League’s new eligibility rule will go into effect at the same time as the NBA’s new age limit, which requires players to be 19 years old and one year out of high school in order to sign an NBA contract or be eligible for the draft.

It’s purely coincidental, of course, that the NBDL opening its doors to 18 year olds has been announced at the same time the the league has confirmed the formation of an expansion team in Anaheim and might be be gobbling up some portion of the CBA.