G-League Gives Hoopers Options


As we enter another decade, there is something that remains to be a burning topic in the American sports landscape. It’s been controversial throughout it’s modern existence and  looks to remain that way for the rest of time. The topic at hand is college basketball.


It once was the premiere thing to do for all of the elite basketball players before taking that next step into the NBA. However, now it seems like that might not be the case anymore. Besides playing in the NCAA, players now have the option after high school to either play professionally overseas, play an additional year at a prep school, choose to train by themselves while doing an internship for a shoe brand, and the new G-League professional pathway program.


Photo Credit: 24/7 Sports

This new G-League is getting major buzz thanks to the recent commitments from not one, but two highly ranked players in this year’s graduating class. Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd received nationwide attention for announcing that they would forego college basketball and instead play in the new G League program.

Most of the players in the NBA had previously played college ball in the NCAA before going pro until 1995. Up until that point, playing in college was the normal thing to do. student-athletes were getting the opportunity to play the game while also earning a free education. However, they were learning over time that they were getting exploited and using their bodies so their schools, coaches, conferences, television companies, and the NCAA can all get paid, while they, by rule could not be compensated as amateur athletes.


Some of the more popular student-athletes over time did their best to let it be known that they were upset and in need some kind of benefits. Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, and the rest of the Michigan Fab Five were amongst those who put their opinions on display while opting to wear plain blue shirts instead of wearing their regular Michigan warmups before games as a silent protest. It was a fair protest, as many of these players would leave school between semesters to live in poverty while the neighborhood Foot Locker sold out of their jerseys.

Everything changed in 1995 when the NBA openly allowed players to go straight to the pros after high school. Future Basketball Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett became one of the first players to do this when he was drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Other notable players who went straight from high school to the NBA are Kobe Bryant (1996), Tracy McGrady (1997), Tyson Chandler (2001), Amar’e Stoudemire (2002), and LeBron James (2003).

However, there is also a list of those who did the same but did not pan out too well in the NBA, and their careers fizzled out shortly. Some of those names include Korleone Young (1998), Jonathan Bender (1999), Leon Smith (1999), Kwame Brown (2001), Eddie Curry (2001), and Lenny Cooke (undrafted in 2002). Unfortunately, there is a reason why you’ve never heard of some of those guys.


The NBA decided to changed their draft eligibility rules in 2005 by not allowing players to come straight out of high school and being at least one year removed from high school. That was the beginning of what we now know as the “one and done era.”


With these new guidelines, it essentially forced elite players to play for the NCAA for one season, making recruiting even more competitive. It also allowed for players to have multiple seasons to improve their game on a big stage, instead of taking a huge risk and watching their professional careers deteriorate.

Playing in college remained the norm, but some players decided to take different routes to the NBA. The first one to break the norm was Brandon Jennings, who was drafted 10th overall in 2009. Jennings was the first player that skipped college and play overseas to be drafted. Terrance Ferguson was another elite prospect to follow in Jennings’ footsteps when he de-committed from Arizona to play overseas. He was drafted in the first round in 2017.

In 2018, Anfernee Simons became the first American player to be drafted after playing a post-graduate year at a prep school. Simons de-committed from Louisville after their issues with the NCAA and decided to spend a year at IMG Academy before declaring for the draft.

In that same draft, Mitchell Robinson was drafted despite spending an entire year training by himself and not playing on a team. He left Western Kentucky before the season started and just decided not to play in college or anywhere else, making him the first player to do so and get drafted.

Perhaps it was Robinson who inspired Darius Bazley to do the same. Bazley was originally going to play at Syracuse before de-committing to just play in the G-League, and then ultimately just decided to train for the draft by himself as well. What makes his case more interesting is that he was an intern at New Balance while preparing for the draft, where he was selected in the first round in 2019.


Those players took the chance to not play in the NCAA and it has worked out for them so far in as they are all getting minutes in the NBA.


However, that was not the same case for others including Brian Bowen II and Jalen LecqueBowen was a top prospect who de-committed from Louisville after their NCAA violations. He had planned to play at South Carolina before the NCAA ruled that he would have to sit for a season. As a result, Bowen chose to play a season professionally in Australia before declaring for the 2019 Draft, where he went undrafted. He is currently in a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers and Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Lecque chose to skip college and play his post-graduate year at Brewster Academy before also going undrafted in 2019. He got signed by the Phoenix Suns, where he splits time with them and the Northern Arizona Suns. Neither Bowen or Lecque saw significant playing time throughout this past season.

Seeing that more players were starting to avoid playing for the NCAA, the NBL of Australia decided to make a move, announcing their Next Stars program. They picked up some national attention in 2019 when not one, but two (sound familiar?) elite high school prospects announced that they would play the following year in the NBL to prepare for the upcoming draft. RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball shook up the basketball world with their decision to play on the other side of the world.

This soon proved to be an issue for American scouts who found it more difficult to scout the elite prospects all the way in Australia. So the NBA and G-League birthed a new idea that is now known as the G-League Professional Pathway Program and their special “Select Team” who will hope to hold various elite prospects.


NBA G League
Photo Credit: USA Today

This new “Select Team” is believed to be based in the Southern California area and strongly rumored to have its headquarters at the Mamba Sports Academy. However, there are no official announcements yet. The leading candidates to coach the team are Sam Mitchell, David Fizdale, and Brian Shaw. It is said that this program will provide the elite prospects to get paid up to six-figures and also receive a full scholarship to attend college whenever they choose to do so in their future, all while training for next year’s draft. This way, elite prospects will not have to play for the NCAA, while playing professionally in the country, which makes things easier for scouts to do their jobs.

The G-League scored when they got Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd to commit to their brand new program. Todd was originally committed to Michigan before making his announcement to join the professional pathway program. Green was one of the most heralded recruits in the country, from Prolific Prep in California, before announcing that he would be joining Todd’s team. Although the program has potential, is it still a better option than playing in college?


Although the NCAA has been increasingly attracting heat for exploiting their student-athletes, they have been making strides to improve their benefits recently.


They said that they planned to allow athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. In late 2019, NCAA officials decided that they would allow student-athletes to do so starting in 2021.

Despite the NCAA’s faults, they still allow the most recognition and national exposure for the players on a big stage. Players have the opportunity to show their range and dedication to improve throughout their collegiate careers, whether that is one or four years, before being able to get drafted. Most of the players with “one and done” potential still believe that the college atmosphere, their facilities, and coaches, will provide the best training necessary to prepare for the next level.

Zion Williamson is a prime example. He chose to play for Coach K at Duke, where he proceeded to be the biggest name in basketball. Everybody in the world was talking about Williamson every single day, whether he was playing or not. His highlights became a mainstay on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 the entire season. He became the highest touted player in the sport since LeBron. You would have thought he was the second coming of Jesus the way sports media outlets were portraying him.

In other words, Zion became a household name. He did all of that while continuing to go the traditional route and playing one year of college ball. By choosing to wait another year to get paid, he was rewarded in millions of dollars with multiple endorsements, all while still becoming the eventual number one overall pick in the draft.


Photo Credit: CBS Sports

One vital element that college basketball has that the other options do not is the opportunity to participate in March Madness. Cutting down the nets, Selection Sunday, heartbreaking upsets, the Final Four, “One Shining Moment,” these are all elements that come with playing in the NCAA Tournament. That is what every basketball player lives for as a kid growing up (next to playing in the NBA).

We have all seen how much March Madness mattered this year. It affects everyone, even the people who do not enjoy sports. As fans, we were heartbroken not to have the annual event that brings us all nonstop excitement for a whole month. For the players, they spoke of dismay about losing those moments that come once in a lifetime. Whether it was unfinished business, their one chance in the tournament, or perhaps their special magical season, all of the student-athletes can agree that they were disappointed about not being able to play in the NCAA Tournament in 2020.


College basketball survived the 10-year span, where players were allowed to go straight from high school to the NBA. It will survive this next wave of options and remain the best option for up and coming elite prospects.

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-Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24


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