ATLANTA – Back in December when LaVar Ball announced that he was starting his Junior Basketball Association as an alternative to college basketball for elite high school players he said it would be “easy” to get said players to participate.
“Getting these players is going to be easy,” Ball told ESPN. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump-start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we’re going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”
Ball said the league would be funded through the Big Baller Brand and that players could make anywhere from $3000-$10,000 monthly.
Still, even with the incentive of cash, Ball and his staff have learned that getting elite high school players to sign on will be anything but a cakewalk.
When we polled McDonald’s All Americans last week in Atlanta most said they’d been contacted by reps from Big Baller Brand either in-person or through private messages on social media, but all were adamant that they wouldn’t choose that route.
“It’s definitely not for me,” said Woodlands (Texas) shooting guard Quentin Grimes, a Kansas signee. “It was more like a funny thing to see the Big Baller Brand sliding in my DM’s.”
Westtown School (West Chester, Penn.) shooting guard Cam Reddish said reps from Big Baller Brand took it a step further with him and came out to one of his games.
“At first I was shocked because I didn’t understand why they were there until someone told me,” said Reddish, a Duke signee. “I mean it’s a cool; they’re doing their thing, but it’s not for me. I’m a college guy.”
That was the general consensus among the McDonald’s All Americans; makes sense when you consider that most players in the 2018 class were around 6 years old when the NBA implemented its age limit in 2006. In essence, all they’ve ever known was the college route.
“Guys going straight to the NBA out of high school is wild to us because we were too young to remember that,” said Greenfield School (Wilson, N.C.) point guard Coby White, a North Carolina signee. “Playing at North Carolina has always been a dream of mine so when I was contacted by the Big Baller Brand I never seriously considered it. My mom would kill me if I didn’t go to college, and the reality is that I want to go. I think we all do for the most part.”
Like Ball, Princeton (Cincinnati) forward Darius Bazley is attempting to transform that line of thinking.
Last week, Bazley backed out of his commitment to Syracuse and announced that he would instead turn pro and play in the NBA’s G-League, which was created in 2001 in order to give players time to develop.
The highest salary Bazley can receive next season is $26,000, but he’ll be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2019.
At least in the short-term, Bazley’s historic move doesn’t seem to be catching on, but the Big Baller Brand continues to shoot its proverbial shot with the country’s top high school hoopers.
Still, it hasn’t reached out to the most famous player in high school basketball, Spartanburg Day (S.C.) wing Zion Williamson, who is signed to Duke.
“LaVar is LaVar,” Williamson said. “What he’s done to this point has worked for him so you’ve gotta respect that. But, no, he hasn’t reached out to me. It wouldn’t matter; I can’t wait to get to Duke.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY