College Basketball, Meet Your Maker: Jalen Green and the NBA G-League

College Basketball, Meet Your Maker: Jalen Green and the NBA G-League

By Aaron Hook, Assistant Sports Editor

During a period of forced downtime in the sports world, groundbreaking news broke late Thursday morning when multiple sources including DraftExpress and Adrian Wojnarowski announced that Jalen Green, the consensus top high school basketball player in the country for the 2020 class, would not be taking his talents to the world of collegiate hoops, but instead, he would be the pioneer of the new G-League pathway that young players can now choose to take on their way to the NBA. A brave and unprecedented business and life decision, Green may have just changed the basketball landscape forever. Let’s explore why.

The controversy surrounding college basketball and NCAA athletics as a whole is a timeless one, and that’s the fact that the NCAA makes billions of dollars every year off of endorsements, tournaments, ticket revenue, TV ratings, and much more. At the same time, top college coaches in major sports such as Nick Saban and Mike Krzyzewski make upwards of $5 million as an annual salary, all the meanwhile the actual student-athletes who dedicate the 4 or sometimes even more years of their life to a sport in which they take significant health and physical risks get paid absolutely NOTHING. Nada. Zip. Donut. Not a cent gets paid to any student-athlete throughout the course of their collegiate career. Now, while this alone hasn’t driven athletes away by any means due to the passion for the sport the athletes have, it certainly has garnered the NCAA a ton of backlash over the years, and with the rise of social media over the past decade, it has been at the forefront of national sports topic more than ever. While college football fans love the College Football Playoff and while the college basketball fan stakes their life to a 64 team tournament every year in March, there is always the underlying reality that these kids who are 18,19 years old are coming into a world where fans pay great money to watch them compete for a title, and their teams pay even more to set them up for success, while they are making nothing as they put their body on the line.

As I continue the article, it’s important to understand the difference between top prospects in certain sports, such as basketball, and an unranked softball recruit. There is no disrespect to said softball recruit, but most top prospects in basketball end up being a “one and done”, meaning they attend college for a single season in an attempt to raise their draft stock, and then enter the NBA draft the year after. The reason they almost always attend college for a year is that the NBA no longer allows high school players to make the jump straight to the NBA, despite the fact that some of the greatest players in NBA history did just that (LeBron, Kobe, Garnett). Jalen Green, like the thousands before him, was prepared to go to college for a year and then enter the 2021 NBA Draft, most likely still being the top prospect in the draft class. Instead, Green has chosen a route that nobody has before, the newly formed G-League pathway.

Talks about the pathway began in summer 2018 and were formally introduced by the NBA and the G-League on October 18 of that year. At first, it had many skeptics, and it was hard to blame said, skeptics. For one, how would it work? Would the players be placed on an NBA-affiliated team or would they play for an independently formed club? And how would it affect their college eligibility? Well, now we have most of the answers to those questions. There will be a new “select” team formed in Southern California that will feature Green, as well as Isaiah Todd, another 5-star prospect who recently de-committed from Michigan to take the same route as Green. Outside of these two, there will be a couple more roster spots for top high school prospects to fill and the rest of the roster will be made up of veteran players. For Green specifically, his money compensation is expected to exceed $1 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. In addition, Green will receive a scholarship to any school he chooses to attend later in his life as part of his compensation as well. The details of Todd’s compensation are unknown at the moment. This is certainly a move that will see a big change in the way elite high school prospects are recruited, as well as prompt the NCAA to make some big changes in response to the G-League stealing two of their top Men’s Basketball players away from them.


Now, while the NCAA will thrive for years to come regardless if any changes are made, and in addition, a vast majority of players will continue to attend college to play basketball, whether that be as a one and done or for multiple years, but one can’t help but wonder if this is the start of the doom of the NCAA and college basketball. While this pathway will really only be viable to 3 or 4 top prospects every year, changes will have to be made, and fast, as there WILL be more elite high school recruits who follow in Green and Todd’s footsteps down the road, and it could cost the NCAA millions of dollars in terms of profiting off of their name and likeness. While this isn’t the first occurrence of top high school prospects choosing an alternate path to college basketball, take LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton’s international careers as proof, this is the first time a #1 player has gone ahead and pioneered a path where it’s a big slap in the face to the NCAA, as he’ll make $1 Million+ all while training with NBA personnel and playing against former NBA players en route to being a Top 5 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and making even more money. This could be the move that forces the NCAA’s hand in finally giving their student-athletes forms of compensation.

One can hope. And Jalen Green, as well as Isaiah Todd,  just gave future generations said hope to cling to.