The time has passed where players must decide between returning to college or staying in the 2021 NBA draft. Its results were very interesting. Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier took his name out of the running a couple weeks ago, followed by big man Kofi Cockburn and plenty of other names.
But the few that stood out were Arizona State’s Marcus Bagley and UCLA’s Johnny Juzang, a pair of Pac-12 staples and possible late-first to second round projected NBA draft picks.
Bagley played only 12 games at ASU, but was second-round worthy because of his evident talent. But a day before the deadline to withdraw or stay in the draft pool, Bagley announced his return to the transfer portal and then his subsequent landing spot, which was back in Tempe, AZ. This shocked plenty of people because the former high school four-star and top 30 player in his class was destined for a spot in the league, no matter his production at ASU.
He was the biggest surprise heading into the final decision day, in which UCLA’s unsung hero of the NCAA tournament, Juzang, shocked everyone and chose Westwood over a borderline first-round selection. The 6-foot-6 guard dropped over 20 points a game in March and led the Bruins to an unexpected Final Four push.
Juzang’s decision could be pinned on his underwhelming draft combine performance, scoring a mere 11 points in a 40-minute game. Bagley says his choice is solely based on the confidence that he’ll raise his draft stock for next season.
However these two points are just the tip of the iceberg. What these college returnees fail to mention is what every college athlete is looking toward after July 1 passed. Instead of possibly getting drafted late, these two, and many other players can use their eligibility to their advantage now that money can be earned at either the college or pro ranks.
A late first round to early second round deal is plentiful, but could also result in G-league time without the opportunity to be seen on TV or land brand deals. Juzang and Bagley chose the chance to raise their draft stock, which will result in a higher amount of money on their starting contract if they perform well, while making a guaranteed bag of cash through endorsing their college game talent.
But what does this have to do with Syracuse?
It’s less to do with the Orange and more to do with college basketball as a whole. The dominoes of the college game are finally falling in favor of the NCAA. Prime athletes actually want to return to school because the incentive that one could previously only garner at the pro ranks is now readily available in the amateur sector (money, of course). The worry about high school recruits choosing the G-league Ignite or Overtime Elite over the NCAA route is now diminishing due to decisions like these.
That should give the SU faithful a breather, knowing the plethora of talent coming in (a.k.a Benny Williams, Kamari Lands and Justin Taylor) are more inclined to stay if scouts don’t project them at the potential they expect to be at.
Why would a college athlete choose the undrafted route or fall to the second round when money can roll in both at the current college level and hypothetically through a higher draft slot. This NIL policy is already playing its course in the basketball world, and if you support Syracuse basketball, you love to see it.