Terrance Ferguson, the latest prep phenom to skip college and go directly to the professional ranks overseas, had a lot to say about how his decision to turn pro helped him as a basketball player this week. His comments come at an interesting time, as the debate over the one-and-done rule has been reignited.
“I’m way more prepared than any college player,” Ferguson told the Charlotte Observer this week. “A college player is coming in thinking he’s the man. After you’ve sat on the bench (on a pro team), they’re not going to like that. I’ve already faced that overseas. I overcome that, so I have the right mindset coming into the league.”
“It’s very physical; a grown-man league,” added Ferguson, who may not have been academically eligible had he opted to attend Arizona. “Everyone over there was going to go after me. I just had to hold my ground and be tough.”
He’s got a point.
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In college, one-and-done talents are going up against players that are their own age, and typically they are going to be the best player on the floor to say nothing of the idea that college coaches may feel obligated to give them a chance; the goal for those kids is to get to the NBA, and if a coach stifles that chance, then next one-and-done prospect considering that school will take notice.
Ferguson, who spent last season playing for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League, was owed no such favors. He had to earn minutes playing on a team with professionals —
grown men a decade his senior — scrapping to keep their career alive and their income stream running.
That’s tough, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that Ferguson is going to be better prepared to handle the fight for minutes better than some of his peers; going from always being the best player on the floor to struggling to get minutes is a shock to the system.
But it’s also fair to wonder whether or not Ferguson’s struggle to get minutes — he averaged 4.6 points in less than 15 minutes this season — stunted his development as a player. It’s a fair argument to make that, at 18 or 19 years old, it’s more important to play and get better than it is to learn how to deal with playing on a pro team.
Then there is the money side of this.
“At college, the only people making money off you are the coaches,” said Ferguson. “You’re not making anything off your jersey sales, ticket sales. Not anything. So go overseas, the way I did, and get your money’s worth. Get paid for what you’re doing.”
And that’s a fair point as well. Ferguson reportedly earned close to $1 million this year, which is roughly what Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay — Ferguson’s two predecessors in skipping college to play overseas — made in Italy and China.
But Mudiay, who had always been considered the best point guard in his class as a top three prospect, was picked seventh, behind D’angelo Russell. Jennings was the No. 1 player in his class and went 10th. Ferguson was top 15 prospect and is projected as a late first round pick.
Should I mention that it’s naive to believe that elite prospects don’t get anything while they’re playing in college?
To date, Jennings, Mudiay and Ferguson have yet to be the trend-setters many have expected them to be. No one in the Class of 2017 is expected to end up playing overseas, largely because, while college basketball isn’t perfect, it is still the best option for high school prospects.