On Oct. 18, the G-League announced a new venture that would provide top high school basketball recruits with an alternative choice to playing in college. “Select contracts” worth $125,000 would be offered to elite prospects who are 18-years-old, but not yet draft eligible.
On the surface, the G-League’s alternative sounds like an intriguing option for a high school basketball player, especially ones who come from rough areas and unstable financial situations. A salary $125,000 is a lot of money for a teenager. Combine that with the option of not having to attend classes and some prospects may view it as a no-brainer.
Other recruits don’t see it that way, though. Many realize that their game still requires development and the thought of going against fully-developed grown men would not help their prospects of landing in the NBA one day. Others desire the college experience for at least one year, as playing in the NCAA Tournament is something many basketball players dream of growing up.
With unsigned 2019 prospects not jumping at the chance to make $125,000 out of high school, the G-League’s alternative plan becomes a bit more complex. Is it as attractive of an option as it was expected to be?
ESPN caught up with five of the top 13 remaining unsigned players in the ESPN Top 100 to discuss the G-League’s plan. Many were on the fence about the idea and hesitant to skip college.
“It’s pretty cool that they’re at least installing an option for high school players that doesn’t want to do college and go straight to the pros,” Isaiah Stewart, the No. 4 recruit in the country, said. “My eyes are set on college and the G-League option is never a thought that crossed my mind.”
“It’s interesting to say the least, but it’s a big risk,” C.J. Walker, No. 19 in the ESPN top 100, said. “It’s something I wouldn’t do. I want the experience of being on a college campus and developing more on and off the court. You have to be physically and mentally ready for that challenge.”
On the other side, Richard Hurt, the father of top 10 recruit Matthew Hurt, sees the venture as a risk-reward type of deal.
“There are some things that are intriguing about it,” Hurt said. “It’s not the money. It’s the opportunity to focus solely on what your craft will be. Similar to what a trade school will be. Matthews has aspirations to play in the NBA. If this moves him closer to that, it’s something he would have to evaluate.”
Hurt does make an interesting point when it comes to players focusing on their craft instead of having to worry about school. However, most college basketball players who are intent on going one and done put the majority of their time into their game anyway. School often goes on the back burner for those players so in a sense, they’re focusing on the game before all else.
Arguably the most interesting perspective comes from five-star recruit Trendon Watford. His brother, Christian, a former star at Indiana, plays in the G-League and has informed Trendon of both the benefits and challenges of skipping college in favor of professional basketball.
“He feels there are some positives as far as the money is concerned,” Trendon Watford said. “He also feels [it will] be tough for younger G-League players, as everyone there is trying to make it to the next level. Those are grown men.”
With so many players disinterested by the potential opportunity, it’s hard not to wonder how far this venture will go. It’s not a good look for the G-League to offer players $125,000 contracts only to get turned down repeatedly. Eventually, the one-and-done rule will become a thing of the past and the G-League’s efforts to draw players away from the college ranks will become obsolete.
Time will tell if the G-League’s efforts are successful. Either way, the early mixed opinions have to be concerning for the league.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.