The G League, via president Malcolm Turner, announced on Thursday they'd be offering a new route for elite high school basketball players, one that would bypass the NCAA entirely as they prepare for life in the NBA, ESPN reports.
The so-called "Professional Path" will begin this coming summer where the G League (formerly the D League) will offer "Select Contracts" worth $125,000 in annual salary to terrific high school prospects who have already turned 18, but aren't yet able to enter the NBA draft because of the Association's continued age minimum of 19. Recent high school graduates or would-be graduates primed to spend a single season playing college basketball will be the likely program participants.
On top of the salary, Professional Path players will get the opportunity to benefit from off-court programs "geared towards facilitating and accelerating their transition to the pro game," Turner told ESPN. Players in the program are free to hire agents and capitalize on endorsement deals with sneaker companies as well as other merch opportunities usually offered to up-and-coming stars.
The impetus behind the Professional Path comes from Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice's findings in the Commission on college sports.
The announcement has already shook the basketball landscape, with many weighing in on the efficacy of such a move.
Here's the full release from the G League.
Turner sat for an interview to delve into more specifics about the plan, including what types of prospects might receive the offer:
Our focus will be on elite athletes. Talent evaluation is inherently a subjective process, and while there are rankings that can help inform that process and assessment, the working group we’re putting together will really be key in this whole process. That group will be charged with identifying appropriate, eligible, elite talent, not only in terms of on-court performance and potential, but also in terms overall readiness for the G League. In addition to identification, that working group will really help us monitor the rollout and execution of this professional path; we’re expecting that we’re all going to learn a lot together.
The NCAA's president has also responded to the news, which threatens to severely undercut their on-court product:
In 2017, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver surprised some when he said of the NBA's age minimum: "It may surprise you. I’m rethinking our position." During a press conference later that year before the 2017 Finals, Silver added "I think we all agree that we need to make a change. My sense is it’s not working for anyone."
Jonathan Abrams published a book, Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution about how misunderstood the jump from high school to the NBA really was before the age limit was implemented. A larger percentage of players who made the jump benefited financially from the move, despite the perception that many had fallen victim to NBA trappings—e.g. Lenny Cooke—and would have done better had they attended college.