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The 2005 NBA draft was the last class to allow prospects to enroll in the draft straight from high school. High school prospects since then have had their options narrowed to either to play in college, an option where allegedly they will not get paid, or take a chance overseas in an entirely new environment in places like Europe, China, or Australia.
With the power of the player increasing since the ruling was made, more and more people called for the increase of options for these young prospects. Many felt that the NCAA was taking advantage of them, making money off their talents and the athletes not seeing any of the profit made off of their work. Within one year of college, a prospect could lose out in millions whether its due to an injury or a bad situation. Due to this, the NBA looked for options for athletes to take a route to make money without having to move countries.
Their answer to this problem was announced on July 18th, 2018. The NBA announced a new alternative route for NBA prospects coming out of high school. This route entailed $125,000 a season for players coming out of high school to play in the G-league, which is basically the minor league of basketball. However the top prospects coming out of high school didn’t take the option, at least until this year.
The high school class of 2020 has led opened up to the idea of joining the G-league after the G-league made some changes to their offer. With Jalen Green and his $500,000 contract leading the way, top prospects like Isiah Todd and Kai Soto joined in the rush to the G-league. As time goes on more and more people are worried that this spells the end of the NCAA and quality college basketball.
Although college basketball may lose out on some top end talent, college basketball fans should relax. College basketball is safe, and hears why.
IMAGE CREDITS: Chris Graythen
Pros of Going to College
Although it seems in an athlete’s best interest to head straight to the G-League to go get paid, the college path provides a lot of positives that the G-league does not. For many top end talents, college maybe the best route for them to go.
Building a Brand
Today the typical athlete is more than just the player they are on the court. Their personality off the court and other endeavors paint the picture of an athlete now more than ever. In college, players are able to create a loyal and die-hard fan-base that’ll support them throughout their career. Florida fans still hold Bradley Beal to high regard and Derrick Rose is basically a Memphis legend. These colleges are great places to start building their recognition and fan bases.
Furthermore, college games get way more coverage than anything the G-league has. Most casual NBA fans are hard pressed to name a G-league team. Amazing talents like Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis are bound to always attract a lot of viewers, but the ceiling to the following they can get is only expanded through the exposure of the NCAA. Zion wouldn’t have the same attention during his lone year at Duke if he went to the G-league. The combination of his talent, his teammates, and the legacy of Coach K’s Duke team made Zion must watch tv.
Overall, in a time period where an athlete’s following is a vital part of their lifestyle, going to college helps jump-start this aspect of their career.
Some may see the G-league as a place where fringe league players see their career die, but in truth the G-league has some solid players especially compare to college. For some freshmen they are in over their head in the type of competition they’ll be facing in the G-league. Often there’ll be former all-american or all-conference players who have had way more experience over these high schoolers. These prospects won’t have the same time to adjust to better competition as every team has former college stars.
It’s not just a matter of skill and experience either, players in the G league have gone through years in college and pro strength conditioning programs. For many prospects, college is one of the first places they add much needed bulk to build their game. Not to mention a tough 50 game schedule compared to the usual 30 in college.
Lastly, going into the G-league there will also be competition within the team to try and shine to get a high draft spot. As it currently stands all the G-league prospects coming out of high school will play for the same team in California. Instead of possibly shining at a star role in college, many may face a fight for playing time and touches from their own team.
One of the main appeals the G-league path draws is the chance to instantly get paid rather than not being able to earn in college. However recent legislation could lead to student-athletes being able to earn money while in college. In Florida, a law passed allowing student athletes to make money off their name starting in July 2021 and many states are planning to do the same. This incentive allows for players to sign endorsement deals and make money for their image while still playing in college.
Furthermore, it seems as though under the table that many athletes were starting to get paid to play anyways. NBA players like Deandre Ayton and Dennis Smith Jr. have already had investigations against them about earning money to go to their respective schools. More recently, Zion Williamson is getting investigated for possibly receiving money to go to Duke.
Whether legally or illegally high school prospects should not worry about being able to make money whichever path is chosen. Very soon, it maybe legal for athletes to make money in college so the argument only solidifying why college basketball is safe from the G-league.
IMAGE CREDITS: Grant Halverson Getty Images
Why College Basketball Won’t Hurt
One of the main things people come to watch college basketball for is the talent, the possibility to see the beginnings of future pros. Although the G-league will snatch some of the 5 stars, many of the NBA’s next superstars will still be in college. Some players don’t receive the proper attention coming out of high school a la Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, or more recently Ja Morant. Many of some of the most entertaining college players weren’t McDonald’s all american coming out of high school.
The NCAA may miss a few of what maybe considered “obvious” talents however college will still have the underdog 4 star or lower recruits who improve in their years of college. After all, look at the past NCAA Champions Virginia, the team did not have a single 5 star prospect. In addition, 5 star recruits are still attracted at the prospect of college. Most recently, the number 1 prospect of the class of 2021 Emoni Bates decided to go to college at Michigan State rather than going to the G-league.
Some aspects of college sports can never be recreated in pro sports. Whether its the roar of Cameron Crazies at a Duke game or the silliness of the wall of distraction at Arizona State, college has a unique atmosphere. College basketball fans have a different emotional tie than with pro sports team. Whether its the passionate alumni or the crazy energy filled college students, the crowd brings an aura of frenzy.
As long as their is madness in March, the NCAA will be fine. Even though 2020 was the first year the tournament has not taken place, I feel that we will be having it back as soon as possible. Whether you watch college basketball during the season or not, all sports fans are drawn to the magical month of March to see the absolute chaos of the NCAA tournament.
Every year millions of brackets are made only to be busted and people all over the country tune in to see if a 16 seed can pull the upset. Buzzer beaters, cinderella stories, and blue bloods aren’t going anywhere even if top tier talent is not present.
Overall the G-League is a great option for the right prospects to take. Admittedly there are positives to the G-League that I didn’t state earlier. First and foremost, high school prospects will be exposed to NBA staff that will teach them skills and styles more suited for the professional game. Not every college has the best facilities, and the G-League guarantees that you’ll receive top training while also being paid legally.
It is an amazing option for many prospects, however this does not mean that they will drain college basketball. College basketball is safe and won’t suddenly implode by the introduction of this path. Players will still come to college as it offers different positives such as a solid start at building their brand and easier competition. Not to mention being a star athlete on a college campus has its perks as well.
Lastly, college basketball is safe because it will be able to survive without these NBA prospects. Before the initial ban of high school players to the NBA in 2005, the NCAA was fine and still produced memorable moments, teams, and players. Plus as long as the institutions, the tournament, and the passion from the fans are still there college basketball will still be alive and well.