College basketball was dealt a major blow on Thursday.
Top NBA prospect Jalen Green’s announcement on Thursday afternoon that he would bypass college basketball to play a year in the NBA G League is perhaps a critical one for the NCAA.
Later in the day, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that five-star prospect Isaiah Todd, who had originally de-committed from Michigan, would go the same route as Green, and possibly teaming up on a G League team that would be established in Southern California for the pair.
The pair follow the same path that LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton did last year, but the difference there is that Ball and Hampton played overseas for a time, while Green and Todd will be playing in America. A third player last year, Anfernee Simmons, chose to train at the IMG Academy in Florida for a year instead of playing for a blueblood college program. Green is reportedly set to receive $500,000 at minimum for his services with opportunities to increase that salary.
The G League itself is owned and supported by the NBA and is quickly turning it into a full-fledged minor league with each team having its own affiliate team. One could assume that the NCAA cannot compete with the idea of making half a million dollars while still competing as well as being able to stay in the United States.
Thursday served as an important reminder that players coming out of high school, and even underclassmen that do declare for the NBA Draft, which over 100 across the country have already done with surely more coming before the April 26 deadline, have a multitude of good choices that are not collegiate.
It’s an assumption that the NBA will soon get rid of their 19-year-old age minimum as well. Currently, prospects must be one year removed from high school to be eligible for the NBA Draft. This will further rob college basketball of getting these young, elite players. So what is the NCAA to do about this?
On one side of this, there are definitely questions about how doing this could hurt Green and Todd. Will they fade from the spotlight once college basketball goes into full swing come next January? Will that lack of a spotlight negatively affect their draft stock? Will a professional development with potentially less experienced coaches hurt them? Those are questions that still need answers.
Either way, this should be a major wake-up call for the NCAA. Thursday was just the first domino to fall. Green is a projected top-three pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. They need to enhance the experience to convince top-level prospects to play for their organization.
The NCAA has been slow to adapt to the player empowerment movement in the past couple years, but they are slowly getting better, to their credit. They are expected to vote sometime in the next couple of months on a transfer exemption that would not force players to sit out a year if they transfer to another school, a rule that would come into effect in 2021. The council is still debating whether athletes should be allowed to profit off of their name, image and likeness while in college, while a handful of individual states have passed it on their own.
For the NCAA to be successful in the long run, they should be passing both of those in order to make the college basketball environment better for players.
On top of this, the NCAA should also be considering some new changes. Seth Davis of The Athletic had a piece come out on Thursday morning where one of the ideas he had was an extremely novel one and one that could be done rather easily: implement draft-and-stash for the NCAA. There are 60 picks in the NBA Draft each year and only around 20 of them make a real impact in their first year, while most ride the bench or get sent to the G League. Any player who is drafted out of college is allowed to stay in college, where they have a better chance to mature both psychologically and socially than in the minor leagues, while the NBA team that selected them can retain their rights for as long as they stay in college.
It’s already a popular practice for teams that draft international players, and the NHL also allows it for college players, and it’s not uncommon for college hockey teams to have multiple players that have been drafted and have their rights owned by an NHL franchise. It’s something that should be thought long and hard about. It’s just another thing that can make the idea of being a college basketball player much better.
Obviously, this is not something that a school like Canisius has to worry about. However, it’s starting to seem more and more imperative that the NCAA has to consider changes for the good of the sport and its future.