Back in April 2020, the G League announced a reshaped NBA professional pathway program for the 2020-21 season. The program will be filtered through a select team for elite prospects, who will be paid $500,000-plus.
The young prospects will earn bonuses through appearances, development duties, and community initiatives. Additionally, they can receive full college scholarships.
With the developmental opportunities both on-and-off the court, and of course the money, the program has shaken the traditional recruiting process. Giving prospects the option to forego college and jump straight to the professional ranks, whilst still being located in the United States.
Top 2021 NBA Draft prospects Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, Kai Sotto, and Princepal Singh have all signed up for the select team, known as G League Ignite.
In the pre-draft media availability ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft, NBA Call-Ups had the pleasure of speaking with many top selections about the new G League select team. What their opinions on the program were, and whether they saw it as being an attractive route to the NBA.
Kira Lewis Jr (#13, New Orleans Pelicans):
Point guard Kira Lewis Jr, who played for the Alabama Crimson Tide for two seasons, stayed quite reserved on the topic. Responding that it’s dependent on the circumstances that a player is experiencing on their journey to the NBA.
Lewis Jr did mention, however, that the G League select team is “a good platform to be in”.
“It can be. Whatever the circumstances the player is going through, what’s going through his mind, what he feels is the best situation for him. That’s what it’s really going to decide on.”
“It’s a good platform to be in, but maybe the player wants to go to college, he might see that as being the best decision for him. Or maybe he might go to the G League.”
2019-20 season statistics (Alabama): 18.5 PTS, 4.8 REB, 5.2 AST, 1.8 STL, 45.9 FG, 36.6% 3P, 31 GP
Cole Anthony (#15, Orlando Magic):
Cole Anthony, who comes out of North Carolina, stated his uncertainty at the new G League professional pathway program. The 20-year-old point guard elaborated with the high skill-level and the age barrier that the G League holds.
“Personally, I am a little unsure about that route. Just cause, the thing with the G League is. Those dude’s are good, those dude’s are also hungry. Those are grown men in that league.”
“I wish everyone that goes that route the best of luck, but I don’t see that route being the ideal route. Certain people think they’re going to be able to do it, but certain people are not.”
2019-20 season statistics (North Carolina): 18.5 PTS, 5.7 REB, 4 AST, 1.3 STL, 38% FG, 34.8% 3P, 22 GP
Zeke Nnaji (#22, Denver Nuggets):
Former Arizona Wildcats power forward, Zeke Nnaji, mentioned that he believes it’s dependent on player preferences. Before quickly outlining that he personally prefers the college route, due to education opportunities.
“I think if someone thinks that is in their best interests, it’s good to give them that option. But me personally, I would take the college route. Education for me is important, I value that a lot.”
“So I would go the college route. But some people feel that they need to go the other route. All the power to them.”
2019-20 season statistics (Arizona): 16.1 PTS, 8.6 REB, 57% FG, 29.4% 3P, 32 GP
Jaden McDaniels (#28, Minnesota Timberwolves):
Power forward, Jaden McDaniels, suggested that the G League select team could be a success if the prospects stay focused, grounded, and put in the work. No matter how long the process takes.
“I was kind of strictly on the college thing” the former Washington Huskies star later said. Asserting his preference to head down the college path.
“I think it can be. As young guys, if they consistently work and stick to their craft, keep their body right, do the little things, and not get too big-headed, they should be fine.”
“Everybody’s path is different. It could take a year, it could take multiple years. I would tell those guys to continue to work. I was kind of strictly on the college thing, that was my goal.”
2019-20 season statistics (Washington): 13 PTS, 5.8 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.4 BLK, 40.5% FG, 33.9% 3P, 31 GP
Tyrell Terry (#31, Dallas Mavericks):
Stanford Cardinal standout, Tyrell Terry, was brimming with enthusiasm for the new G League select team. The 20-year-old point guard affirmed his support for the program, stating that it’s a “really cool idea” and “an awesome opportunity” for talented high-school prospects that want to jump to the professional ranks.
Terry later said that he hopes the team is successful, opening the path for more elite prospects to follow the same route to the NBA.
“I think it’s a really cool idea. Especially when you see high-school prospects have so much talent so they don’t need to go to college. They can get into a roll where they are developing for that next level.”
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity and I’m excited to see what these prospects can do on that G League select team. Hopefully that goes well for them so that, in the future, more prospects will want to do the same thing.”
2019-20 season statistics (Stanford): 14.6 PTS, 4.5 REB, 3.2 AST, 1.4 STL, 44.1 FG, 40.8 3P, 31 GP
Vernon Carey Jr (#32, Charlotte Hornets):
Vernon Carey Jr, out of Duke, disclosed his support of the G League select team. In a reserved response, the 19-year old center stated that the route “is definitely something to partake in”.
“Definitely. If they don’t want to go the college route, or the overseas route, I feel like the G League is definitely something to partake in.”
In answer to a follow-up question on whether he would have entertained such an opportunity, Carey Jr did mention that it was not a desired route for himself. Stating that he was “strictly on the college route”.
2019-20 season statistics (Duke): 17.8 PTS, 8.8 REB, 1 AST, 1.6 BLK, 57% FG, 38.1 3P, 31 GP
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