For years college basketball has been seen as a stepping stone to the professional ranks for top-rated recruits — many of whom showcase their talents at the NCAA level for a short time, sometimes just a year, before making the leap.
But could that be changing?
This week, five-star recruit Daishen Nix decommitted from UCLA to instead announce his intent to sign with the NBA G League pathway program. Nix was the first to decommit in favor of the G League, but according to ESPN is not the first 2020 recruit the NCAA has lost out on: No. 1 prospect Jalen Green and five-star forward Isaiah Todd both have agreed to join the G League instead of playing in college.
The G League has offered contracts to top-flight prospects, according to USA Today. Nix’s contract is expected to be worth around $300,0000, while Green’s was reportedly worth $500,000. The NBA’s developmental league has drawn criticism, however, including from high-profile college coaches such as Kentucky’s John Calipari.
Calipari voiced a critique during his weekly web show, where he told guest Charles Barkley that by the time most athletes realize they’re not skilled enough to attract a G League contract, it could be too late for them to qualify academically for the college route.
"My issue with the G League trying to entice players by giving them more money, is not the kids that you’re getting," Calipari said Monday. "It’s the thousands of ninth and 10th graders that think that’s how they’re going to make it, when you and I know it’s going to be 2 percent. We’re not talking 50. It will be thousands and thousands and thousands."
Barkley, speaking on Calipari’s “Coffee with Cal” show, agreed, saying "We spend all our time talking about the small little percentage of guys who want to go to the NBA... I only concern myself with all the other guys, all the other young black men who go to college. ... I’m worried about the 99 percent. We’ve got to make sure these young black kids get their education, because that’s going to dictate their future."
Nix explained his rationale for the G League decision, telling the Los Angeles Times that “Playing in G League is basically getting me ready for the NBA draft. It's just one step below the NBA."