Norcross (Ga.) High School shooting guard Brandon Boston said his greatest on-court motivation is to end his mother’s 14-hour workdays. Holy Spirit Prep (Atlanta) shooting guard Anthony Edwards said he’s driven to “make it” to help his sister, who recently had a child, and his brother, who has one on the way.
A six-figure salary would certainly aid in that regard, and elite players such as Boston and Edwards likely will be eligible to cash in on that option soon.
The NBA announced recently that, beginning next year, select players would be able to earn $125,000 to play in its G League for a year before entering the NBA Draft. In addition, the NBA said players would receive training and life skills.
Still, while the hefty paycheck is enticing, the consensus among elite players is that college remains the better long-term option.
“It’s not something I’m thinking about,” said Edwards, who is ranked No. 3 overall in USA Today Sports Chosen 25 for 2020. “That’s a lot of money, but it’s not for me.”
IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) shooting guard Josh Green thought “it was smart of the NBA” to offer high salaries to elite prospects but added that with no tangible examples of the move working out, he’s convinced most players will stick with the college route.
“No one knows how it will work,” said Green, an Arizona signee ranked No. 7 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2019. “It looks like it will be a good thing for some people and I could see it working, but we just don’t know yet. At the end of the day, we all want to get to the pro level. So if you can do that and succeed, you’d have to sacrifice the college experience.”
The NBA wasn’t definitive on the criteria for players who would be eligible for the program, only that it would be “a very specific group of elite players.”
Perhaps even more attractive is that, as pros, the players would be clear to receive endorsement money, which is strictly prohibited in college athletics.
That could mean an even bigger bump from the G League’s base salary for high school players projected to go high in the NBA Draft. DeAndre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick last June to the Phoenix Suns, signed a four-year, multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Puma.
Little Elm (Texas) High School point guard R.J. Hampton admitted that his initial reaction to the G League salary was cliché.
“I was like ‘That’s good money!” said Hampton, who is ranked No. 4 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2020.
As he thought more about it, Hampton realized it didn’t pass his cost/benefit analysis.
“There’s a lot that comes with that,” Hampton said. “Long travel, no TV time, early connecting flights, small gyms… All that stuff. If you’re that caliber of player, you don’t have to go to the G League to get drafted.”
South Garland (Texas) point guard Tyrese Maxey signed to play next season at Kentucky — one of the most passionate fan bases in the country.
He said that, as bad as he wants to be a pro, he “couldn’t imagine passing up that experience.”
“You’d miss out if you take the money in the G League,” said Maxey, ranked No. 6 overall in the Chosen 25 for 2019. “That’s just me. But, on the other hand, you’re getting paid and getting training from coaches, most times, that have been in the NBA. That’s big too. I just don’t know if it will work out.”
Darius Bazley may shed some light on the G League option.
Bazley opted for the G League over playing at Syracuse this season. Last month he signed an endorsement deal with New Balance worth $14 million with $1 million guaranteed.
“There are some guys that might take that money,” Hampton said. “I have a lot of guidance around me with my parents and we’re looking at things super close; that’s probably why I wouldn’t take it.”
That said, Hampton pointed out if the option was there to go straight to the NBA out of high school, “then it’s a different story.”
In July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the one-and-done rule, which has been in place since 2006 and requires players to play one year of college basketball, could change by 2021.
Green echoed Hampton’s sentiment but said that, as it stands, college basketball is the most viable option for him to achieve his dream.
“I have to do what’s best for me,” Green said. “If that means going to college all four years or even going to the G-League, that’s what I would do, and my parents are on board with me. For me, I can’t wait to get to Arizona. That’s what I want to do.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY