The G League announced last week that it will offer $125,000 contracts to elite high school prospects as a professional path that would serve as an alternative to college. The announcement was met with both optimism and skepticism dependent upon point of view and perspective.
Count Kentucky coach John Calipari in the latter category.
“My concern comes back to I want to know what happens to the kids that you’ve encouraged not to go to college if they fail,” he said Sunday via the Louisville Courier-Journal. “What are you going to do for them? That’s my whole thing. What is it going to do to 8th and 9th and 10th graders? Are you going to have a whole wave of those kids that think, ‘I don’t need school I’m going to go to the G league.'”
The G League’s new professional path offering will offer elite players, of which many would be considered “one-and-done” caliber, $125,000 contracts for a five-month season. They then could be prodded to the NBA after one year.
The upshot with such an alternative, of course, being that players can immediately cash in on their relative value. The down side, however, is both the lack of opportunity to develop against similar talent in college, and obviously, the lack of education you’re promoting. With the one-and-done arrangement, players can go to school while developing their athletic talents, and have a fallback if hoops falls through. With the G League option, players will go straight from preps to pros, capping their education at the high school level unless they choose to re-route their life post-basketball.
The G League’s effort in moving to such an offering may help clean up some of the sport’s corruption with regards to nefarious recruiting practices that is being weeded out by the federal government, but it’s not a one-solution-solves-all alternative. For Calipari, he still sees college as the best avenue, but he’s none too concerned about how Kentucky might be impacted — even if it is more reliant on the talent the G League will be targeting than most college programs.
“If it’s what they say, three or five guys and that’s it, I don’t think it affects us,” Calipari says. “As a matter of fact, probably makes us better. The kids that come here are kids that want the competition and want to get better. They’re not going somewhere so that they only gotta shoot all the balls. (Those players) don’t come here.
“I think this may even separate us some, so I’m not worried about it.”
The G League’s offering will be available beginning in the summer of 2019, so it’s too early to tell how — or if — it might impact elite prospects. The vibe around most young UK players, however, suggests one-and-done will still be the most traveled path by most.
“Might as well come to college, have a good experience, build your brand, play in front of thousands and thousands of people,” Wildcats freshman Tyler Herro said. “…College basketball at the end of the day is the best thing. Come March Madness, that’s the biggest stage it can get.”
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