CRAWFORD | G-League offering prep elites $125K is intriguing, but not enough
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The NBA, according to multiple reports, today informed its teams that no changes to its age limit will be made before the 2022 Draft, but there is a wrinkle. Teams in its G-League may now offer elite high school prospects up to $125,000 for one season of professional basketball and intense on-court and off-the-court instruction.
It’s an intriguing deal. I’d say there are kids who will take that deal every year, and who will succeed. It gives players an important option. You take the $125k base, then get an endorsement deal, or several, and you’re on your way.
But the best players? Frankly, $125,000 isn’t enough – and not just because of the most common reaction: That many are receiving more than that from elite schools right now.
It’s all a question of marketability.
Anthony Davis, Wooden Award winner from the 2012 NCAA Champion Kentucky basketball team, who spent all season playing on ESPN, who was the subject of national coverage in big games from October to April, whose unibrow was featured on T-shirts far and wide, whose wingspan was celebrated in an iconic poster, that Anthony Davis is a more valuable player both to himself and an NBA franchise than the same player had he spent one season toiling in G-League anonymity, even if he did make $125k-plus for it.
Which is smarter? Go play a year at Kentucky, become a national star, then go in and look to negotiate your shoe deal and other endorsements? Or go play for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, take the $125 grand, and see what kind of endorsement deals you get?
And that's not to mention the better travel arrangements and other perks at top college programs.
When the NBA instituted its age limit and the one-and-done player became a phenomenon in college basketball, I heard Bruce Pearl talk about why he didn’t see it going away.
“The NBA benefits from the marketability of these players out of college, however long they’re there,” he said. “Some people may know these guys out of high school, but there’s an excitement about them coming out of college, not to mention that they’re a year older, which allows NBA scouts to evaluate them, and a year more mature.”
Like it or not, the NCAA is a farm system. It’s the best farm system the NBA has. It’s a crappy model for colleges, but that’s not the NBA’s concern.
The best thing the NCAA can do is work around whatever the NBA does.
Kentucky’s John Calipari says players should own their image and likeness and be able to profit from it. He floated the idea of players who are drafted in the second round having the option of returning to college.
There’s no shortage of good ideas, frankly. There’s a huge shortage in leadership. The NCAA, with a diverse membership, is stuck on the idea that a single set of rules can govern Kentucky and Cornell.
NCAA president Mark Emmert, in a statement, did praise today’s G-League announcement.
"We appreciate the NBA's decision to provide additional opportunities for those who would like to pursue their dream of playing professionally," Emmert said. "The NCAA recently implemented significant reforms to support student-athlete success, including more flexibility when deciding whether to play professionally.
"Obtaining a college education continues to provide unmatched preparation for success in life for the majority of student-athletes and remains an excellent path to professional sports for many. However, this change provides another option for those who would prefer not to attend college but want to directly pursue professional basketball."
It comes with a risk. Does a top-level high school player want to subject himself to facing older players in the G-League?
College remains the safer choice for most elite players. And in the end, the most lucrative.
This is an interesting option for some players. But in the end, it’s no substitute for the straight-to-the NBA route that most elite college prospects want and deserve.
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