Preps-to-pros opportunities changing college basketball recruiting; but how much will it impact Kansas?

Kansas guard Josh Jackson jokes around with head coach Bill Self during a kid's clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam fitness center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson jokes around with head coach Bill Self during a kid's clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam fitness center in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

Up to this point, the talk about top college basketball prospects considering Kansas but opting for professional opportunities instead has been mostly retrospective in nature.

Discussions about what Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson or even Josh Selby might have done had the rules have been different have been common. But few future Jayhawks from the past have actually considered skipping college for adventures unknown.

However, with the college game and the recruiting efforts that feed it constantly changing, the vibrations are starting to be felt in Lawrence.

In the past 11 months alone, KU has seen five-star prospect R.J. Hampton pick a pro opportunity in New Zealand over college at Kansas. Class of 2020 five-star forward Isaiah Todd followed that up by choosing Michigan over KU only to back out of that commitment this week with his own plans of turning pro.

And then there’s the latest news about Class of 2020 prospect Jalen Green, the top remaining uncommitted player in his class. KU was not recruiting Green, but he, like Hampton, could have an impact on future prospects the Jayhawks are pursuing.

Welcome to the newest wave of college basketball recruiting. It promises to be an interesting ride.

Earlier this week, Green announced that he will skip college to take advantage of the NBA’s new G League developmental program that offers select prospects a contract worth up to $500,000 to play one year in the G League before entering the NBA draft.

Current NBA collective bargaining rules stipulate that players must be 19 years old and one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft. This may change in the near future, but those are the rules today.

Instead of waiting for their NBA riches while sitting through algebra and economics classes, more and more top prospects are starting to consider striking out on their own.

The idea here is not entirely new. But having the NBA directly involved is.

In 2008, Brandon Jennings played overseas instead of attending Arizona. Future lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay did the same thing six years later, opting for an opportunity in China instead of a scholarship at SMU. A handful of others followed their lead — to varying degrees of success — all the way up to Hampton and famed Ball brother, LaMelo Ball, most recently playing in Australia’s National Basketball League instead of attending college in the United States.

The incentive for the players is to make good money and compete against pros while preparing to become eligible for a shot at their dreams in the NBA.

The incentive for the leagues and teams overseas is global exposure and the opportunity to establish a pipeline between them and the United States.

And the incentive for the NBA, with its new G League initiative, is to keep the top talent and future stars from leaving the country.

Pouring this kind of money into teenagers is a gamble. But it’s one that appears to have plenty of upside for the NBA.

Hampton, who analysts and coaches said would have been a star at Kansas, delivered modest production in the NBL. In 15 games before getting injured, he shot 40% while averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, all while playing against grown men.

Ball, who started his pro career in Lithuania after being pulled out of high school by his father, LaVar Ball, also was injured during the recent NBL season. But even with that, both players are projected to be lottery picks in ESPN.com’s latest mock draft.

All of this could be short-lived, of course.

Whether these top prospects jump to the G League now or enter the NBA draft out of high school like they used to — provided the NBA eventually gets rid of the one-and-done rule as is expected — their futures do not appear to be in college basketball.

But the list of prospects both good enough and willing to make that kind of jump is short. Remember, this new G League initiative is open only to a select few.

Many of the best high school players in the country will still go to school.

In fact, six of the eight committed Top 10 players in Rivals.com’s 2020 recruiting rankings have been signed since at least last November. And all of them appear to be forging ahead with their plans to attend college.

From a marketing and development standpoint, there are plenty of advantages that come from being coached by the likes of Bill Self, Roy Williams, John Calipari and others while also playing on ESPN and other national networks 25-30 times a year.

So don’t be surprised if this new trend finds its to way to Lawrence. Through the moves made by Hampton and Todd, it all but did.

But don’t panic either. The KU coaching staff will continue to fill its roster with elite prospects and talented players, many of whom will never even have the opportunity to consider making the kinds of moves that Green, Hampton and Todd are making.

Look to KU’s 2020-21 roster as proof. The highest-rated prospects on that roster are senior-to-be Silvio De Sousa, who was ranked No. 18 overall by Rivals.com in the 2017 class, and incoming freshman Bryce Thompson, whom Rivals ranked at No. 19.

As talented as both players are, in the world of preps-to-pros basketball, a Top 20 player is not in the same class as a Top 5 prospect.

Comments

Ryan Gerstner

Just seems a little fishy that there weren't any blue bloods in on Green at the end. I'm guessing there was more going on behind the scenes.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Creg Bohrer

Not really if you look at is from their prospective.. If I'm a top recruit that's getting good information I realize that I can get paid to play and I don't have to put up with the NCAA's crap.Plus the NBA is really done a good job of drafting worldwide they'll still end up getting that good draft position. If I do pick a university, I have to abide by all these rules that most can't afford to put up with, because most come from poor families and need money. Big mack is a great example. Let the NBA take them, I'd rather see kids playing hard to make it than see a bunch of kids playing just well enough to not get hurt

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Brad Avery

Good riddance to the one and doners! The ones who have signed with KU have generally all been terrific athletes who would have profited as basketball players and human beings by remaining in school. I am a college basketball fan, not so much the NBA. I understand the desire to make a lot of money, and I don't blame those who pursue it out of high school. But as a basketball fan, I would rather watch Bill Self coach and develop the Marcus Garretts, David McCormacks and Christian Brauns of the world than any of the one year pros who floated briefly through AFH.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

I would too but it might mean college needs to overhaul its rules to make it a more attractive alternative. Not likely as long as the NCAA is in charge.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Brad Avery

I would be more than willing to displace the NCAA.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

$500,000 is not that much of a gamble in terms of NBA contracts. This is a smart move by the NBA and it will be good for the college game as well. I hope this is the beginning of the end of the OAD era of college basketball.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Shannon Gustafson

Nothing about this will end the OAD era. It may take away a handful of kids that would have been in that OAD group but it will still persist. I'd actually be surprised if it drastically changed the number of OAD draft entrants.

The only way the OAD era ends is if the NCAA makes it a "stay 2 years minimum" rule and forces those considering the NBA to go to the G-League or overseas. Otherwise, as long as it's an option, some will take advantage of it.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Jonathan Allison

I don't care so much about OADs in the literal sense and as a natural occurence.

If a player chooses to go to college because it is the right move for him, and he's not in violation of any NCAA rules or federal laws, and then he had a breakout season and leaves for the NBA as a freshman, then I have no problem with that whatsoever.

The problem stems from the fact that players players didn't really have a viable alternative route to the NBA but to play in college for at least one year, and the colleges, the agencies, and the marketers were providing all kinds of secretive and illegal incentives in order to persuade those players and their families to act in ways that were only really benefitting the colleges, the agencies, the marketers, and the NCAA.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

Unless this experiment by the NBA turns out to be a total failure I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t have an impact on the college game. At the very least it should curb the type of financial inducements to athletes that currently has us in trouble with the NCAA. And it should slow down roster turnover, all of which I believe will be good for college basketball. Will it eliminate OAD’s entirely, probably not.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Jonathan Allison

I doubt it will have any slowing impact to roster turnover. The rate at which players transfer doesn't appear to me to be slowing down. And even with the current trend by the NCAA to allow players to enter the NBA draft and then return to college that will likely only increase transfers. Also there are powerful people lobbying the NCAA to relax the transfer rules for the benefit of players.

I think that roster turnover is the kind of problem that has always been a big problem in college and that we will always perceive to be getting worse, whether it actually is or isn't.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

Don't think it would have any effect on roster turnover in regards to transfers but I was thinking in terms of OAD's like Wiggins, Jackson, et al whose only intention is to spend a year in college so they are eligible for the draft.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Robert Brock

The Transfer Portal (Meat-Market) is nothing short of scandalous.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Jonathan Allison

any word on De Sousa's plans for next year?

My assumption is that he plans to lay low this summer and prepare for a big year next year for KU. But considering his public history (not entirely of his own making) of bringing unwanted attention to the university, it wouldn't be surprising to see him make an attempt at a fresh start; either professionally or as a transfer.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

I'd like him to stay but I too think a transfer is a definite possibility. Could not blame him if he did.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Zielinski

Just wondering out loud here but wouldn't a player be better off going to a good to elite college team and being a star and then going into the draft as opposed to taking $500,000 for one year and risk being exposed?

Unless the NCAA mandates a player stays for 2-3 years it would still seem like the safest bet to showcase your talent in college, forego $500,000 and go for the NBA draft money without battling in the G League for a season.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Jonathan Allison

My take is this: college is not for everyone... even if you're a OAD star bball recruit.

Also, some of these players simply aren't as good as their HS ranking and get exposed in college.

But generally if you want a national spotlight, college is best. But as far as making the NBA, if you are a top level US HS bball recruit you will be scouted playing overseas or in GLeague or in College. You may get a head start on building a marketable brand by playing a year in college as opposed to playing in Australia or with the Austin Toros, but the scouts and GMs will know your name regardless of whether you starred in the NCAA tourney or played in the GLeague all-star game.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Pius Waldman

World Wide recruiting is gaining more attention. Basketball is becoming more popular so more available recruits for American colleges.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

Why have there been no new articles for the last couple of days? Does anyone know if the site is about to shut down?

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Len - In case you haven’t noticed the nation and world is pretty close to shutdown and even more so with respect to sports. All sports not just this site. This is normally a slow time of year with LJW seemingly manufacturing stories out of a few nuggets of drafts, recruiting, offseason workouts. Those aren’t happening this year though we are super fortunate to get to spend just a little time in the film room with Coach. Definitely doesn’t make up for it all, but I’ll take the lemonade.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

The top 5-10 players each year are capable of going direct. The problem for the nba is figuring out the ones that aren’t. The G-league is a cheap way for them to filter out the chaff.

There are some players that will choose it. The NCAA and fans will notice Green being gone just as much as they have missed the previous players. None.

It is funny to hear the players comment on getting better/nba coaching, like the coaches on these b-league, er, I mean Gleague teams are going to better than former nba Coach Juwan Howard. And even Howard isn’t as good as some other ncaa coaches.

Did it make a difference (for KU) losing Hampton last year? No. Maybe he would have been the kid in street clothes instead of Wilson. Did it make a difference for him? That remains to be seen. He isn’t a part of the collective being that is KU, alumni and fans. There is some value there. He also misses the opportunity to pull a BRush, rehab, and come back to prove he is worth a top draft pick.

Either way, KU, other elite programs, and the entire NCAA will be just fine. It was fine when freshmen were not eligible. It was fine when HS players went straight to the draft or after one year. It will be fine regardless of what iteration they come up with in the future, because we have great coaches, and great schools/fans.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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