College basketball programs will lose players to NBA hybrid


Auburn was not the first college basketball program to lose a top recruit to the NBA. It certainly will not be the last. NCAA basketball and paths to the NBA are changing.

On Wednesday, fans of Alabama basketball enjoyed a banner day of Crimson Tide recruiting success. For Auburn, there was disappointment. Arguably college basketball’s top 2020 recruit, Jalen Green passed on Auburn and Memphis.

High school players skipping college to play professionally goes back for decades. At the urging of the NCAA, in 2006 the NBA instituted its ‘one-and-done’ program. For more than a decade, the change pushed elite players into college rather than playing professionally.

The NBA owners and the NBA Players Association have been negotiating to do away with one-and-done. The owners want some relief from the negative effects of young players skipping college to play internationally. The Players Association wants something to blunt an explosion of high school talent directly to the NBA once ‘one-and-done’ is eliminated.

A transition solution, developed as an off-shoot of the NBA’s G-League, is what Jalen Green chose. The G-League (known previously as the NBDL) has become a valuable feeder league for NBA teams. But the salary structure does not compete with several international, professional leagues.

The hybrid model was explained by ESPN.

"(The NBA) worked to eliminate two massive hurdles to convincing players uninterested in college basketball to pass on the lucrative National Basketball League of Australia by providing a massive salary increase and a structure that doesn’t include playing full time in the G League."

The new program does not include playing on a G-League team. It is a year-round development model with some exhibition games against G-League teams and ‘national teams.’ The NBA clearly wants to re-define its role in developing young players. G-League President, Shareef Abdul-Rahim said,

"We have kids leaving the United States — Texas and California and Georgia — to go around the world to play, and our NBA community has to travel there to scout them. That’s counterintuitive. The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn’t have to go somewhere else to develop for a year."

Where do these developments leave the NCAA? Most college basketball fans believe it pushes the NCAA to allow players to be paid. It is not so simple. How much the players would earn and how it would be monitored for cheating remains a concern. Initially, the G-League Academy was to pay players $125K-plus. It has been reported that amount has grown to $500K-plus.

In the case of Jalen Green, it has been reported by Yahoo,

"The G League is also offering Green a full scholarship if he wants to obtain his college degree."

The NBA packaging the future cost of a college education in the deal makes it quite attractive. This may become the new definition of a ‘strong-ass offer.’ Even unfettered by the NCAA, not many colleges would try to match high six-figure offers.

Amateurism and college sports needs to change. Changing it is not easy. Immediate responses on the modified NBA plan suggest college coaches and athletic directors will be opposed. Instead, some may be content with the change as long as it later ends ‘one-and-done.’

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In the short-term, Alabama basketball fans can take some joy. Auburn lost a 5-Star recruit, the Crimson Tide will not have to battle next season.