Sports, Syracuse

Rise of NBA G-League Already Impacting Amateur Athletics

Darius Bazley is a pioneer for the future, in one way or another. (c) Associated Press

Listen here to learn more about Darius Bazley’s unprecedented decision and its impact on college basketball.

Audio Transcript: Prx Scipt

By Ethan Roy SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)

In what is already an unsettled time in the college basketball landscape, the evolution of amateur athletics recently took a large, and unprecedented step forward.

As the “one and done” route has emerged as a popular option for high school prospects in recent years, players no longer need to spend a year in college, as the NBA G-League is now allowing players to be “none and done”.

A handful of players have experimented with this option in the past, but it has not been considered a legitimate alternative until very recently.

Darius Bazley, a McDonald’s All-American power forward and ESPN’s 9th-best prospect in the Class of 2018, sent shockwaves through the sports world by taking the road much less traveled.

After signing his national letter of intent to play college basketball at Syracuse in November, Bazley recently announced his decision to decommit from Syracuse and spend a year playing in the NBA G-League instead.

A future lottery pick by all accounts, Bazley is entering uncharted waters with this decision, and the aftermath will impact the current dynamic of college basketball, regardless of his success.

“What he does in the G-League, how it works out, will determine whether or not players follow suit,” said Dennis Deninger, a former producer at ESPN. “So he’s kind of a trailblazer here.”

The NBA G-League is emerging as a very entertaining alternative for athletes like Bazley fresh out of high school, largely because of the opportunity to earn a salary, an opportunity unavailable in the NCAA.

The sentiment in the sports world that college athletes should receive further compensation beyond a free tuition continues to grow, and more prospects may follow in Bazley’s footsteps to greener pastures.

“I think they should definitely be allowed to make money off, like, their likeness,” said Zachary Lessard, a Rochester native and passionate Syracuse basketball fan on player compensation, “especially cause it’s not fair that the NCAA is able to basically take advantage of them and make money off them when they cannot personally gain from it in any way.”

There are reasons why the college route has been so popular, namely a free education, another year to perfect skills, and experiencing a tradition that most high school graduates go through.

“The education that you get, even in just interacting with other students, faculty, interacting with a college program, interacting with a hall of fame coach, those are things that you’re not going to get at the G-League,” said Deninger, who is also a professor at Syracuse University.

Whether the NCAA or the G-League better prepares players for the NBA is still unclear. Rules and regulations of the G-League offer a format much better tailored to the NBA than the NCAA offers, and the choice between a free education or a salary continues to grow more difficult.

Whether or not Darius Bazley’s decision pays off for him is still to be determined. What is determined is that his success, or failure, will only spark more changes in this insecure era of amateur athletics.