KU's Bill Self OK with Lavar Ball's Junior Basketball Association as long as academics is addressed
Lavar Ball continues to stay in the public eye with his publicity stunt for his two sons in Lithuania, his Big Baller Brand shoe and apparel line and recent comments about Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton.
But if the pie-in-the-sky dreamer’s proposed Junior Basketball Association is going to get off the ground as an NBA alternative for prep stars wanting to skip college, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self would like to see one rule be an important part of the league.
“If they do that, that’s fine, Lavar, do it,” Self recently told the Journal-World when asked about the potential impact of the JBA on college recruiting. “But make sure (the players) meet NCAA academic requirements or whatever before they can go so at least that way they have options.”
The reason Self believes some kind of academic element — be it a qualifying test score, specific grades or meeting NCAA requirements — is important for the grass roots league is because of the potential dangers of the league, or any other like it, operating without one.
Self said he did not believe the JBA, which is slated to open play this summer, would create issues with college recruiting.
“Could it have an impact? I guess it could,” he said. “But it’s not going to have more of an impact than what the NBA will.”
Right now, with college basketball — and eventually the NBA — being the ultimate goal of young ball players, most of them understand that if they do not take care of their academics throughout junior high and high school, reaching those levels is going to be harder to achieve.
If Ball’s JBA, which would pay as much as $10,000 a month to the top players and a minimum of $3,000 to the rest, operates without any academic guidelines, Self believes young players who otherwise would have been interested in college and the NBA could quickly be blinded by dollar signs and put academics on the back burner for good.
“I’m disappointed in anything that would inspire a 15- and 16-year-old to say, ‘You know what? Man, school’s hard, I know I can just go play pro ball and make money,” Self said. “If you tell a 9th and 10th grader that academics aren’t important and not to worry about Algebra II or Geometry or making grades or meeting NCAA requirements, they’re done before they ever get a chance to change their minds. They could be making academic decisions (that impact) the rest of their lives at age 15 and 16 if they feel like there’s a safety net of, ‘Well, if I don’t make it in the NBA I can go here and make a lot of money.’ That’s not right.”
Self said he was not against the idea of the league itself. He just would much prefer that young athletes still value some level of education before developing tunnel vision on playing basketball for money.
While the dream of NBA fame and riches already drives many young players today, nearly all of them know and understand from an early age that performing well in the classroom is a required part of getting there.
“They could still have that future with the important of academics in their minds,” Self said of playing in the JBA. “If you just prepare yourself for it academically and then, at the end of the preparation, you decide, ‘This is best for me,’ I’m fine with that.”
Beyond that, Self said skipping college to go play in a grass roots league to make some quick money could prove detrimental in terms of missing out on valuable life experiences that college provides.
“When they say, ‘This kid doesn’t want to go to college.’ Well, I think there’s a lot of parents of kids who aren’t athletes that make their kids go to college,” Self said. “And then, by the time they’re in college, they say, ‘Hey, I can see why this is important, I can see the future, I can see the positives that come from education.’ And I think it would be the same thing with athletes. “How many players have we coached at Kansas that if they’d have had the opportunity or somebody had told them that a league like this was out there then their commitment to academics would have been altered? More importantly, how many have graduated that, when they got here were thinking, ‘Man, I hate school.’ And then they got here and they realized, ‘Nah, school’s OK. This is fun.’ The social part is a big part of the education, not just taking classes, so...
“The thing that I just despise is for anybody to put something out there that is unproven that doesn’t take the academic interests of a youngster into play. I understand that there are financial difficulties and these sorts of things. But, hey, high school diploma, being able to qualify and go to a university and maybe being the first family member to graduate, all the positive things that come from education; to plant the seeds that those things aren’t meaningful doesn’t sit well with me.”
One thing Self believed could help ensure the JBA is a success on all levels if the NBA’s involvement.
“There’s going to be some changes, I believe, with one-and-dones and how all this ties in from the NBA to the collegiate (game) to the grass roots (leagues),” he said. “And I think the NBA will be on board to help with all this and want to understand what all the problems are with collegiate basketball and grass roots basketball.”