Darius Bazley is hoping to be a pioneer.
The top-10 recruit in the 2018 class has decommitted from Syracuse and will instead go to the G League, according to Yahoo Sports.
“This is a life-changing decision,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports. “I put a lot of thinking into this with my mom and close circle, especially sitting down with her. It’s just like making the decision to which college you want to go to. Me and her did some talking, and I prayed on it. I talked to my high school coach, Steve, who played overseas, and then I talked to a couple of guys in the G League who have experience.
“Ultimately, playing professional basketball has always been my dream. It’s always going to be the dream goal, always going to be the goal until I achieve it. This is going to put me one step closer to doing so.”
A number of top prospects have opted out of college basketball to go overseas where lucrative contracts await them, but Bazley is the first to stay stateside and play in the NBA’s minor league, where salaries could cover the cost of a full-loaded Camry and not much more. The top salary for a G League player, who isn’t on a two-way deal, is $26,000.
It’s an unprecedented decision, and one that Bazley believes could be the start of a trend.
“The G League will have the most to offer, considering that is the development league for the NBA,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I will get more out of that than going overseas. The G League is the closest thing to the NBA. I see most guys now are spending time in the G League even after they went to school and the draft, so this gives me the chance to accelerate the process. There have been a lot of successful guys who have been brought up in the G League, and I’m confident that I will be one of them.
“I’m self-motivated because I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is how I want to make a living. This is how I want to provide for my family, and provide for my love of basketball. I’m not playing any games with this. I’m attacking this straight forward. I’m not maneuvering around this, take any side steps. I’m taking this head on. This is the decision that I made, and I know it will work. I know what I’m capable of doing, and I’m going to do just that.”
The NBA has made more of a commitment to the G League in recent years as it has increased salaries and created two-way player contracts that more easily allow teams to shuttle players back and forth between their affiliates. Still, the league offers much less in the way of amenities and spotlight than playing for Syracuse. Instead of charter flights to Durham to play Duke at Cameron Indoor, Bazley will be looking at flying commercial, probably with a layover, to play the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
And that’s not even taking into consideration the alleged money available under the table for top players that was laid out by the FBI in its probe of corruption in the sport. That money, allegedly and apparently, is there if recruits, or their associates, are looking for it.
Bazley, who could be a lottery pick in 2019, is taking a path with risks. How it works out for him will likely determine if it’s a path that will become well-worn over the coming years.