This week, there’s been some shifting around the high school recruiting scene. Multiple players have committed to professional options. Jaden Hardy, the number two recruit in the class of 2021, chose the NBA G-League Ignite team over 20-plus college offers. But that’s not the big news. On Friday, five-star class of 2022 point guard Sterling “Scoot” Henderson signed a contract with the G-League worth six figures, forgoing his senior season of high school and his NCAA eligibility. Later, twins Matt and Ryan Bewley, top-25 players in the class of 2023, inked deals with the new Overtime Elite league for undisclosed amounts.
Both Henderson and the Bewley twins are sure to be NBA lottery picks, regardless of their post-high school destinations. However, the early nature of their commitments is something that certainly should worry the NCAA. This is the second year of the G League Ignite team’s existence, and Overtime Elite just came into being. Both pro options already have the firepower to convince high school underclassmen to forget about colleges.
It’s a pretty simple choice if you’re a top prospect:
Both pro options promise college-equivalent school options, but those equate to online classes. The long and short of it is basketball comes first.
However, there is one thing colleges have that these professional leagues don’t: exposure. Cade Cunningham, the projected number one pick in the 2021 NBA draft, made headlines on a weekly basis because of what he did over the span of a six-month college season. He played prime-time games on national television, received praise from fans and pundits and vaulted to the top of draft boards because of it.
Jalen Green, who many consider the second- or third-best player in this year’s draft class, played 15 games in the G-League bubble. His stat line was similar to Cade’s, but the games were on ESPN2 or worse, some at 11 A.M.! The NBA did their best to promote the team on social media, but at the end of the day, it’s the minor leagues. College basketball is its own scene with a loyal fanbase, which matters so much more than most consider.
The G-League might have the monetary advantage, but with slowly changing NLI rules, the NCAA might be able to catch up soon enough. Professional options are stirring the recruiting pot, but college basketball is here to stay, and will last much longer because of the fans and the media. Players might make money in the pro leagues, but they’ll make a name for themselves in college.