Money talks. The most prominent force in the 2020 college recruiting class hasn’t been the Kentucky Wildcats or the North Carolina Tar Heels, but the NBA and its G-League Pathway. On Wednesday, a fifth top-100 prospect forgoed his college eligibility to join the new program based out of Southern California.
Johnathan Kuminga, the former #1 player in the class of 2021, reclassified to the class of 2020 and accepted an offer from the NBA’s G-League Professional Pathway. The 6’8 forward from New York City became the fifth player to choose the G-League over college, joining Jalen Green, Daishen Nix, Isaiah Todd, and international prospect Kai Sotto. Kuminga’s top college choices were Kentucky, Auburn, Duke, and Texas Tech.
Kuminga’s choice to go to the G-League is an interesting one. He spurned the chance to play with his brother in Lubbock, or be an almost guaranteed 2021 top 5 pick after a year with John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski. However, his decision makes a lot of sense when you look at the League’s offer. Kuminga is going to make $500,000 in one year with the G-League.
So where’s the connection to Dior Johnson? Kuminga wasn’t a Syracuse target, and as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have a relationship with Johnson, but the similarities are there. Both players could be called young journeymen. Kuminga came to the U.S. five years ago from the Congo, and Johnson has traveled across the States, playing now at his fourth different high school in five years.
Johnson has also expressed an interest in reclassifying to the class of 2021, which could be for various reasons. He could want to get on campus as soon as possible, and play with Benny Williams (and battle for playing time with Joe Girard and Kadary Richmond).
Johnson could be tired of high school basketball (he’s been playing at the varsity level since seventh grade), and not want to put extra miles on his engine. He could be worried about what I call the Grant Delpit scenario: a top rated prospect stays an extra year, and people start to poke holes in his game. Then, his stock falls.)
While these possibilities are all very real, the G-League is lurking in the background. And since it seems like Kuminga reclassified with the purpose of joining the Pathway program, the rumors around Johnson’s reclassification could mean the same. G-League president Shareef Abdur-Raheem certainly isn’t shy about going after top high schoolers, and the league locks in these commitments with lucrative financial offers. Kuminga and Green are both getting $500,000 from the NBA itself. Todd and Nix are both getting somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000. The most worrisome part is that both Todd and Nix were committed to high-major programs (Michigan and UCLA respectively) before changing their minds and turning pro. While the money is peanuts compared to what the players will make in the NBA, it is enough to lure them away from going to a university.
Nevertheless, Dior Johnson is still committed to the Orange, and seems intent on making his recruiting class one of the best in SU history. Let’s just hope his pledge to come to the Hill stays intact.