College is not for everyone. Just ask 2018 five-star recruit and former Syracuse commit Darius Bazley.
In November 2017, Bazley made the decision to join a loaded Syracuse recruiting class primed to bring the program back to its status as a national power. As time progressed, though, Bazley’s focus shifted from playing in the ACC to taking his talents to the next level.
A decision two months in the making, Bazley announced his intentions to forfeit his college eligibility in late March 2018 and go straight to the NBA’s G League, becoming the first top recruit to ever do so. While his intentions are to put himself in the best position to make it to the NBA one day, Bazley is aware that his decision could mark the beginning of a trend regarding how future top recruits choose to pursue their NBA dreams.
“This might start a trend and that’s one of the reasons why I am doing this,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports in an interview shortly after he announced his decision. “This is going to happen down the road and become more common. But someone has to start the fire; and I believe I’m going to do that.”
While not every top recruit has the desire to jump right out of high school into the professional ranks, many have reasons when it comes to skipping college and going pro.
Some recruits come from poor financial backgrounds and need to help support their families. Bazley would not have made a penny playing for the legendary Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Now, he is in a position to make a maximum of $26,000 next season in the G League, plus payments from agents and other sponsors, opportunities that are not available to collegiate athletes.
Others simply have no desire to take part in the academic commitment that comes with being a college student. With the G League now a “viable” option, elite prospects could focus on basketball instead of going to class and studying.
For the most part, every top recruit wants to make it to the NBA one day. While it could be argued that spending a year in college while developing as a player at a top program is more beneficial than spending a year in the G League, it is not as if NBA scouts do not place an emphasis on the talent that makes up what is essentially the NBA’s minor league system.
If a growing number of elite high school recruits jump to the G League, scouts will flock to the small towns where G League teams play. What better way to figure out if a prospect has the makings of an NBA player than evaluating him prospect against a player who is more experienced than any player in the college ranks?
Just as school is not for everyone, skipping the college experience is not for everyone, either. Many top recruits want to experience being the big man on campus and take in everything that comes along with being a college student, even if it is just for one year. In most cases, the allure of playing for a blue-blood program or attending a state university is too much to pass up.
When it comes to figuring out if Bazley will go down as a trendsetter or an elite prospect who made the wrong decision, only time will tell. Either way, the potential for the high school-to-G League route to become a viable path is certainly on the table.
Tyler Calvaruso is a journalism major from Howell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.