The debates slowly legitimatized into discussion. The discussion developed into to-be-determined action. With the NBA G League beginning to draw more and more of the country’s elite high school basketball talent, the NCAA is going to have to put that action into motion sooner rather than later.
Daishen Nix, a consensus five-star recruit out of Las Vegas, reneged on his commitment to UCLA on Tuesday in favor of the G League, the NBA’s minor league, as part of the league’s pathway program. The news was released by the league itself.
Because players must be 19 years old during the calendar year in which they are drafted, most high school players must wait a year after graduation to become a pro in America, often opting for a year or two in the college ranks, where compensation comes in the form of tuition and, sometimes, under-the-table gifts and wads of cash.
There are a couple of reasons why Nix’s decision is so significant. He’s the third five-star recruit to opt for the program, which is in its second year, joined by top-ranked prospect Jalen Green and forward Isaiah Todd. Not only is Nix the third notable name to sign on, but he’s the first player in the program’s brief history to do so after already committing to a college.
The G League always has been an option for high school athletes, but wages often couldn’t compete with the money from colleges, whether that be in class credits or the aforementioned brown paper bag money. They oftentimes couldn’t compete with international leagues either, which is why some of the 2020 draft’s top prospects, such as Lamelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, opted to play in Australia, joining an increasingly popular shift of playing around the globe.
The pathway program created $125,000 salaries last year, but according to a recent ESPN report, that number was inflated to $500,000 this year, which likely explains the trio of top dogs making the move. The program is not a full G League contract, as players aren’t assigned to an affiliate. Rather, they will play in about a dozen exhibition games, receive some educational courses and perform community work and other tasks on par with the life of a potential professional.
With this combination, the G League has become as potent a threat to college basketball as ever. Players are set to receive greenbacks tenfold compared to the value of their education and get some of the same social growth (although nothing ever will compare to life on a college campus).
The pathway program isn’t available to anyone — the league has scouts out and about and handpicks its invitees. But if the cream of the crop begins to shift more and more away from the traditional route, the NCAA will be in even more trouble than it currently is.
There finally has been progress in recent years in regard to student-athletes and their compensation. As soon as structures are figured out, they will begin to control their own likeness and image, with the ability to monetize it. But if colleges don’t consider actual payments, aside from scholarships, they might not be playing enough catch up.
It’s a no-brainer that schools have been paying prized commits for decades. But as recent federal indictments and charges have come to some of those caught red-handed, the facade has been melting away. Not only has this become a black eye of sorts for the NCAA, but it’s also unquestionably instilled fear in the bag boys who used to run that money around, as well as the ones deciding how to spend that money.
The NCAA’s system has been antiquated for quite some time and has been studied for more than 30 years. If it doesn’t act quickly with both likeness compensation and straight payments to student-athletes, it could all come crumbling down, at least on the hardwood.