There was a time when high school stars went straight to the NBA. Until that opportunity opens again, a select few are going straight to the NBA’s G League.
Jalen Green, the nation’s No. 1 high school player in the Class of 2020, announced Thursday he is skipping college to play professional basketball in what is considered the minor league of the NBA.
Green’s unprecedented move, one that could pay him more than half a million dollars, could have ripple effects on the future of basketball recruits nationally — and maybe in Minnesota, too.
Minnehaha Academy junior big man Chet Holmgren, the nation’s No. 2 player in the Class of 2021 by ESPN.com, understands why others are considering Green’s path.
“I think it’s definitely a step toward change and others will follow,” Holmgren texted. “But I think many, including myself, don’t know that much about the details.”
Holmgren’s high school teammate, Jalen Suggs, has been another five-star recruit on the G League’s radar. Suggs teamed up with Green, an explosive guard from Prolific Prep in California, to win gold medals for team USA’s junior national teams the past few years.
Suggs’ father said he was in contact previously with representatives from the G League and pro teams overseas about his son’s future. Suggs decided to sign with Gonzaga to start the late signing period Wednesday. And “we’re happy with the decision,” Larry Suggs said.
“It could work for some people,” Larry Suggs said about the G League. “If I’m a business owner in the NBA, I would want the [top high school] kids to stay here in the States.”
Prior Lake senior standout and Marquette recruit Dawson Garcia would have considered the G League option if he were part of next year’s class, his father, Dave, said. Garcia and Suggs were McDonald’s All-Americas like Green.
Going to the G League would scale back on recent globe trotting at a time when the coronavirus is keeping everyone closer to home. Five-star recruits LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton ventured to Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) last year, drawing six-figure salaries.
Commissioner Adam Silver predicted NBA age-limit rules would be changing soon. How soon is uncertain. Currently, players must be 19 or one year removed from high school. The preps-to-NBA path that included former Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett was halted in 2005.
Until that opportunity is available again, Green’s choice to skip college basketball for the G League might become more common. The league’s previous maximum salary expanded to $125,000 but is being raised now. Even for smaller pay, it already had appeal for college underclassmen such as Amir Coffey, who left the Gophers last year after his junior season.
“There are so many elements that are pulling at college basketball right now — and we’ve got to do a better job making it more intriguing for guys to stay in college,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “… The G League is paying six figures to kids. Amir Coffey made good money. … I’m not saying that was the wrong decision. He’s making money, and he’s playing in the NBA.”
Green was deciding between the G League and Auburn and Memphis. Michigan’s 6-11 five-star recruit Isaiah Todd announced last week he was turning pro. He’s now linked to Green’s squad.
A handful of prep standouts reportedly are going to be teammates with veteran players on an unaffiliated G League development team based in Southern California. Their schedule will include 10-12 games against regular G League teams but it won’t be part of the standings, according to ESPN.com.
“It’s been a crazy, exciting experience for me and my family,” Green said on Instagram. “A lot of opportunities that came, but the ultimate end goal is to get to the NBA.”