College basketball has been in a weird place ever since the beginning of the one-and-done era. A select number of teams have been banking on the best talent in the country to lead their teams for a season, and then come to terms with the fact that they will have to replace them right after. It’s a carousel that the NCAA likely isn’t fond of, but when your talent pool hinges on the rules of the NBA, it essentially isn’t fair (though some would argue not paying college players isn’t fair either).
Aside from players playing one year of college before joining the NBA Draft, there have been a number of players that have found loopholes in the system. Players playing overseas has been a big one, and more recently Lavar Ball has decided to create his own league to serve as a supplement to playing in college. Well, now there’s a new method that until now has been unexplored by McDonald’s All-American talent: going straight to the NBA G-League.
This past Thursday, five-star player Darius Bazley decided to forego his commitment to Syracuse and join the NBA G-League instead. This is a trailblazing move when it comes to the top talent in the country, and one that has got a lot of people talking. What this means, of course, is that Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim had his own opinions on Bazley’s decision:
“I mean just look at Trae Young for example,” Boeheim said. “He can be playing in Idaho someplace this year riding the bus. This whole thing about, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get them in the G-League.’ Have you ever been to the G-League? Have you gone to a G-League game? You ever lived where those guys live? They’re adults. 23, 24-year-old guys. Now you’re going to be 17-year-old guys there? You’ve got to be crazy.”
What Jim Boeheim perhaps was referring to, is that the G-League is a highly unglamorous, low-paying development league for the association. Players get paid between $19,000-$26,000, play in arenas that barely have fans in the stands, and the games are typically aired over Facebook Live or some other form of social media streaming service. There’s definitely reasons to go straight to the G-League, though it’s understandable why most players to this point have decided to take the college route instead.
Bazley himself spoke out about what he hoped to accomplish with his decision:
“I’m aware that this might start a trend and that’s one of the reasons why I am doing this,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports. “I’m outspoken and I like to speak on things. This is me speaking through my actions, speaking through my character. 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, and it’s very important to me.
“Part of me thinking this decision through, I looked at the guys coming out of the G League. I made sure that I knew what I was getting myself into. There have been a lot of successful guys who have been brought up in the G League, and I’m confident that I will be one of them.
“Whenever I’m at basketball camps, I never hear any discussion about going from high school to the G League. But I believe now, there will be discussion about it. Not only are you getting paid to play the sport you love, but you’re getting the development that you need and want. You don’t have to worry about going to class, and don’t get me wrong, education is important and I’m going to still take classes at my own pace. But I’ll be around NBA games, focus on my body and focus on my development 24/7, without having to worry about anything else. This is strictly basketball. That’s what I want.”
Given that the NBA is dragging their feet on fixing the OAD rule, it is very hard to not believe that Bazley will be right to some degree. Playing college basketball involves more than going to practice and playing in games, as we all know, and that isn’t even including the fact that players don’t get compensated aside from scholarship money (unless you are walk-on, in which case you don’t even get that much). The idea of joining a professional league and making money right away is a potentially lucrative endeavor, and is one that ironically helps the NBA if more players decide to go straight to the G-League. The exposure part isn’t even necessarily a big deal, given that the only exposure that matters when you are trying to get into the NBA is exposure to NBA scouts. If you’re already in the system, it’s hard for them to miss you dropping 20+ points a game for the likes of the Greensboro Swarm.
The strongest argument against joining the G-League or any other league instead of playing in college is education. While there are some players that don’t end up finishing their degrees, there are a lot of players that finish out their degrees with whichever institution they came out of after their first year. The reason is simple: basketball doesn’t last forever, and when it’s gone, it’s important to have something to fall back on if for some reason you didn’t make as much as a Lebron James or Kevin Durant (or you just blew it all).
Another argument that can be made about going to college is the experience. Joel Berry II was vocal about why he came back to UNC following his junior year in that he wasn’t ready to give up the experience that he had while attending school. College is an experience that is hard to forget, and once it’s over, it’s a little hard to not want it back, especially when adulthood hits you hard. The friends you make, the events you take part in, and the places are irreplaceable. It’s hard to know what you’re missing if you never experience it, however, so maybe going straight to the G-League doesn’t provide that type of perspective.
So what should we expect following Bazley’s decision? It’s really hard to tell. It goes without saying that some of the top recruits in the nation will still opt to go to college, but just how many? Will the future Lebrons of the world follow Bazley’s path? More importantly, how long will the NBA let these loopholes be utilized before they FINALLY fix the one-and-done rule. There’s almost too many questions at this point, and not enough answers. One thing is for sure: Jim Boeheim may pop a blood vessel if anybody gives him anymore reasons to be this angry.
What do you think? Do you think Bazley’s decision is only the beginning of top recruits choosing to go into the G-League? Let us know in the comments.