How Jalen Green’s G League jump could ultimately force NCAA to change

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Jalen Green of Merced, California, is the # 1 prospect in the 2021 project class. He is also the # 1 ESPN rookie in 2020. A six-foot-five, 170-pound guard, Green is a talent generational. He is 19-0 in international play, with dominant performances against fellow goalkeepers Killian Hayes and Théo Maledon on his resume. The 18-year-old is as close to the lock as possible to place in the top three so far from the 2021 draft.

And on Thursday, he announced that he was bypassing college and entering the NBA G League professional career program.

He’s not alone either. A day after Green made his decision public, Isaiah Todd, a six-foot-nine forward ranked # 13 at the 2020 ESPN 100, announced that he would also be bringing his talents to the G League. Previously committed to Michigan, Todd averaged 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in 16 games on the 2019 Nike Elite Youth Basketball circuit, posting five double-doubles.
It would be a stepping stone for the NCAA title for any Power Five school to secure these two perspectives. Now no one will.

The Green and Hood decisions signal a shift in dynamics between the NBA and NCAA. While the professional circuit was once a collaborator, he is now positioned to be the greatest talent competitor in university basketball. They also signal to the historically slow-to-change NCAA that the best players are no longer as willing to play with its current model.

It is not an outlier. Brandon Jennings (who in 2008 was a top prospect like Green) and Emmanuel Mudiay have chosen this path and for the past two years, Mitchell Robinson, Anfernee Simons, Darius Bazley, Jalen Lecque, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and RJ Hampton have all have made it clear in various ways that they do not need the NCAA as it is now. There’s a good chance that two of the top three picks in the 2020 draft – and five of the top 10 – will hear their names called after never playing a minute in the NCAA.

The professional career program launched in 2018, initially paying players $ 125,000 for one season. It was not enough of an incentive to attract top players, but the number of elite candidates has now increased to $ 500,000. Green and Hood will also be free to earn money on endorsements. They will not play full-time in the G League, but instead in a selected team that travels and trains.

Unlike the lengths that Ball and Hampton have known before them, Green and Hood will not have to travel to the other side of the world to get around the one-and-done rule. They will also be able to develop under the guidance of coaches and NBA level coaches, with no restrictions as to their practice time or the course load to be balanced.

In return, they will elevate and draw attention to the G League. Shams Charania reported there are plans to launch a team in southern California with Green as their centerpiece.

The NCAA was the star-making machine. Michael Jordan had a winning streak in the NCAA tournament and helped build his brand. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have brought their current rivalry with the NCAA to the NBA. This dynamic no longer exists. I see more high school highlights on my Instagram feed than college highlights.

Of course, you could say that Zion Williamson took advantage of the platform he got from Duke, playing in front of crowded arenas and on national television. But when he got to school, Williamson had more Instagram followers than the Duke basketball program and the NCAA combined. These players create their own platforms; they no longer need the machine in the same way.

Memphis and Auburn were the last schools vying for Green. Michigan lost to Todd. These are great programs with charismatic coaches on staff with NBA experience. If the best players feel that these are not the best places to prepare for the NBA, what does that mean for the rest of the schools?

College basketball will not die without players like Green and Todd. Tradition, rivalries and elders are important. But talent too. The NCAA can continue without the best young players, but it will not be as good. With the NBA moving from a player development partner to a competitor, the NCAA must finally read the writing that has been on the wall for so long and find a way to provide incentives beyond free education that can actually cost millions of dollars in lost wages and endorsements.

Maybe that allows NCAA players to have their own similarities. Maybe it puts money into a trust. Maybe it gives them a salary and treats them like an employed student, the same way you treat children who work at the bookstore.

The end result continues to act as if the NCAA programs are nonprofit and can not afford to pay players is no longer possible. Players now have the power to change this dynamic. The NCAA can continue to exploit athletes. He simply will not have access to the best.

We have a sentimental attachment to university sports and we believe that higher education is good for young people. But autonomy is too.

It never seemed logical to me that you could be old enough to vote or go to war, but not old enough to be paid to go up and down a court.

Adam Silver offers an alternative – one that pays. It is time for the NCAA to do the same. Because more and more frequently, players decide that their only brilliant moment is when they are paid.



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