When the clock hit noon on the east coast on Thursday, high school phenom Jalen Green took to Instagram Live to announce the most important decision of his young life. This decision revolved around whether he’d be spending the next few months enrolling with Fresno State, Auburn, or Memphis or deciding to take a detour from the NCAA to become a pro athlete. With thousands watching on IG Live and many more ready to react on other social media platforms, the 18-year-old made the decision to become the first five-star player to go straight from high school to the NBA G League.
As Jalen’s friends, family, and almost thousands of followers were celebrating his decision, the details of that G League journey quickly started to become crystallized. According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojarowski and Jonathan Givony, Green will be the headline act in the restructured professional path program that allow him and other top high school prospects to play for team that will both train and play exhibition games against different types of teams.
That competition could include anywhere from 10 to 12 games against G League teams along with matchups against foreign national clubs and players from the various NBA Academies throughout the globe. As you can probably guess, that means that this Jalen Green-led squad will be in a bubble away from the 28 team league infrastructure that plays 50 games during the season.
While Green is going to be the face for this team, he’ll be expected to be joined by other high school stars. On Friday morning, The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke the news that 6’10 forward Isaiah Todd, whom 247sports ranks as the 13th prospect in the 2020 high school class, will be joining this team that will be based in Southern California. According to that aforementioned ESPN report, the likes of Makur Maker, Karim Mane, and Kai Sotto are other prospects that could be forgoing college to take this route. In addition to those players, 6’9 forward Greg Brown, who is 9th on ESPN’s Top 100 big board.
Although the facility that the team will be practicing and training at is still unknown, the NBA plans to fill out the roster with veteran pro athletes that will both mentor the high school standouts while getting an opportunity to prove themselves in those exhibition games, according to the piece from Wojnarowski and Givony. In addition to that, former Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell is looked at as one of the candidates to lead the team.
In addition to the clear on-court benefits of this program, the G League will allow these young men to start their training for life after the basketball stops dribbling. The most significant way they’ll be able to do that comes through an established partnership that the league has had with Arizona State since 2017.
Any player that’s signed to the GLeague has an opportunity to use the school’s online service to take classes and earn a degree through their undergraduate and graduate programs. This opportunity remains for individuals that struggled academically in high school as they can use ASU’s Global Freshman Academy, which lets them earn academic credit that he can be used for one of the undergraduate programs or transfer to another university.
In addition to attending online classes with Arizona State, players are able to utilize Game Plan’s Athlete Identity Assessment and Athlete Interest Inventory assessment. The assessment is meant to give to create awareness of certain personality identifiers that can help them both on and off-the-court. Meanwhile, The Athlete Interest Inventory helps the identify which methods the players are supposed to do in terms of academics and career interests.
All of these benefits combined with large six figure contracts (G League will pay Green at least $500,000) allows this option to be extremely appealing and logical option for elite prospects for players from a financial, on-court, and personal development perspective.
Obviously, the high salaries combined with the opportunities for shoe deals or other endorsements will allow the player to be in a great position financially before they even enter the NBA Draft process. Whether they decide to save that money, invest it, or decide help their family, they’ll have the type of freedom that they wouldn’t have as college prospects.
Transitioning over to the on-court perspective, there’s both strengths and weaknesses to this plan. The main weakness is that the schedule being a bunch of exhibitions prevents them from getting a chance to play in the type of high pressure games that they would in college.
However, their skills will still be tested as they’ll get a chance to compete in practices against the veteran players that will fill out the roster for this Southern California team. Competing against older players that have experience playing in the NBA, G League, or major international leagues will do a good job of preparing these young players to make that leap to the NBA. In addition to being tested on the court, they’ll also get a chance to be taught about life as a pro athlete and being on their own from players that have gone through the trials and tribulations that arise during every season.
Being able to gain that valuable knowledge from experienced players or coaches like Sam Mitchell will also put them on the right track towards them maturing as actual human beings. Along with those important lessons, they’ll also use Arizona State’s online courses to continue their education and the Game Pass program to put them on a path towards figuring out what to do after basketball.
Despite all of the information that has been reported by various NBA insiders since Green went live on Instagram, there’s more questions that need to be answered. Which veteran players are going to be joining the prospects? How many high school standouts are going to follow Todd and Green? Who’s going to be the head coach, assistants, and training staff for this squad?
Although we’ll have to wait for those questions to be answered, this move is still exciting and the biggest thing that has happened in the G League since it rebranded in 2017. This is a game-changing move for basketball as it allows the G League to be a major option for any five-star high school prospect after being shunned by LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton last year. It will also give the league significant exposure if these players compete in the annual G League Showcase event.
While we’ll have wait a long time until we’re able to actually see these players step foot onto a G League floor, the immense positives for both the league and the players themselves are already clear.