The NBA’s G League has made waves in the past few weeks by securing the talents of three five-star recruits — Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and, most recently, Daishen Nix — and beating out the NCAA in the process.
That initiative was bound to see some detractors, and one of them was, unsurprisingly, Kentucky coach John Calipari. But not for the reason you might think.
Rather than worry about losing out on blue chip prospects he’s recruiting to Kentucky, Calipari said on his weekly “Coffee With Cal” show that he is more worried about the prospects who are not blue chips ... and don’t quite know it yet.
"My issue with the G League trying to entice players by giving them more money, is not the kids that you’re getting," Calipari said Monday during his weekly "Coffee with Cal" web show featuring guest Charles Barkley. "It’s the thousands of ninth and 10th graders that think that’s how they’re going to make it, when you and I know it’s going to be 2%. We’re not talking 50. It will be thousands and thousands and thousands."
Nix reportedly chose to begin his professional career in the G League rather than play in college after being offered a contract worth around $300,000. Todd is reportedly getting $250,000 with incentives and Green — the most well-regarded prospect of the bunch — will reportedly receive $500,000.
Obviously, that is an amount of money plenty of recruits are going to be eyeing, even as college coaches preach the long-term benefits of a college education.
In Calipari’s mind, that appears to mean some high school players will prioritize basketball over their studies, let their grades slip, then lose out on a college career after finding out they aren’t the level of player the G League is looking for. It’s probably on the G League to be communicative with prospects about their chances of a contract so that doesn’t happen, but that would be difficult if there are thousands of players out there thinking they could be G League material as Calipari estimates.
Calipari’s guest on the show, Charles Barkley, agreed that some players could make the error:
"We spend all our time talking about the small little percentage of guys who want to go to the NBA," Barkley said. "I only concern myself with all the other guys, all the other young black men who go to college. ... I’m worried about the 99%. We’ve got to make sure these young black kids get their education, because that’s going to dictate their future."
Even though it’s against his perceived interest, Calipari has long been a supporter of allowing players to enter the NBA draft out of high school, as the Courier-Journal notes. However, he also believes that those who aren’t good enough for the draft should attend college.
It seems possible that the G League entering the equation could further blur that line between good enough and not good enough that created so many missteps for non-elite high school players before the NBA imposed its age minimum.
In related news, the NBA has informed teams that 205 early-entry candidates, including 163 college underclassmen have filed to enter a draft that has 60 total slots.
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