Top prospect Jalen Green becomes first player to test G League professional pathway program

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Jalen Green, the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2020 and a guy with the potential to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, announced on Thursday afternoon that he has committed to … the G League?

Instead of going to college, Jalen Green will be the guinea pig in the latest G League effort to keep American talent that is not interested in playing collegiately stateside. Green is the first high school player that has opted to enter the G League’s professional pathway program for prospects that want to do something other than go to college for their one-and-done season.

And he may not be the only one that follows this path. Isaiah Todd, another five-star prospect in the Class of 2020, announced earlier this week that he will not be attending Michigan and is exploring professional routes. He is expected to join this same G League program. Kentucky commit Terrence Clarke was pursued by the G League but seems intent on heading to Lexington, while Gonzaga commit Jalen Suggs has also made clear that the professional route is something he is considering.

Green is expected to earn north of $500,000 this year and enroll in a program that is significantly different from the option that was given to high school players in the past. According to ESPN, Green will not be playing as a full-time member of a G League team but instead enroll in what amounts to an NBA academy. He’ll get on-and-off the court training, he’ll have a chance to scrimmage G League teams as well as other NBA academy programs from around the world and he will receive professional coaching and player development training from actual NBA coaches. The goal is not to force Green and fellow high school graduates into competing against professionals but to instead help them learn what it takes to be a professional basketball player, on and off the court.

This will obviously be a blow for the sport of college basketball, but it’s one that we have become somewhat accustomed to in recent years. Every year, there are more elite high school prospects that are opting for alternative routes to the NBA than going through college. R.J. Hampton and Lamelo Ball followed Terrance Ferguson to Australia, where the NBL has established a Next Stars program for one-and-dones. Anfernee Simons and Thon Maker started a trend of players going to prep school for a year before entering the draft, one that will be followed by Makur Maker, Josh Hall and Kenyon Martin Jr. this year. MarJon Beauchamp announced last summer that he will be on the Mitchell Robinson plan, skipping college and opting to spend his one-and-done season working out and prepping for the NBA draft on his own.

The G League route, however, is something that we never saw an elite prospect do. Former Syracuse commit Darius Bazely intended to enter the G League, but he realized it was not in his best interest. (Back in 2009, Latavius Williams skipped college and went straight to the G League, but that was before this program was established and issues with collegiate eligibility influenced that decision.)

The reason for it is that the G League is by no means an easy place to play.

We look at it as a joke because it is the minor leagues, but the truth of the matter is that the G League is made up of players in their early-to-mid 20’s that were high school All-Americans and all-conference players in college. Look at some of the names on this year’s midseason all-G League team:

  • Frank Mason was the National Player of the Year in 2017.
  • Josh Jackson was a top five pick and a top three recruit that is still on his rookie contract.
  • Gary Payton II averaged 16 points, 7.8 boards and 5.0 assists for an Oregon State team that actually made the NCAA tournament.
  • Keldon Johnson was a top ten prospect that will be two years out of college next season.
  • Tremont Waters averaged 16 points and six assists in two years at LSU.
  • Marial Shayok averaged 18.7 points at Iowa State

The list goes on and on and on.

These are grown men, many with young families, fighting — sometimes quite literally — for one last chance at landing an NBA contract, at the financial security that comes with getting one of those coveted 450 jobs. The adjustment to the college game is difficult for most freshmen. The G League is a significant step up from even the highest level of college basketball.

Now Jalen Green might have been ready for that leap to the G League. Some high school kids are. Zion Williamson certainly would have been, and while I don’t think that he is on the level of Zion, I do think that Jalen Green is a good enough player right now to be able to go to the G League without getting exposed. He’s a consensus top three player in a class where the top three are all good enough to be picked No. 1 in this year’s draft.

I don’t know if I can say the same about some of the other players considering this route. Todd, specifically. He’s a 6-foot-10, mobile big man with three-point range and the ability to handle the ball, but he’s not tough enough, strong enough or ready to defend at that level. Like Bazley, he is precisely the kind of player that could torpedo his draft stock playing against grown men before he’s ready.

Which is why this decision to turn the G League route into what amounts to an NBA academy is so important. These guys aren’t going to playing against pros every night on a team that has no incentive to actually develop them. This route, which will include a free college education, now becomes appealing, especially when it will be located in Southern California and come with a $500,000 payday.

The bigger question, however, is whether or not a decision like this, a push from the G League to get stars into the NBA’s grips as quickly as possible, is bad for college basketball.

And in a sense, it is.

Having a player as good as Jalen Green at a school with a fanbase as passionate as, say, Memphis would have unquestionably been a good thing for the sport.

But James Wiseman lasted three games at Memphis last season, and college basketball was, overall, just fine. Ball is as big of a draw as Zion, and college basketball survived while he played in Australia. Hampton was likely to commit to Kansas if he went to college, and the Jayhawks were still the clearcut No. 1 team in the country.

Losing out on a handful of freshmen every season is not something the NCAA or college basketball fans should be worried about, not when the one-and-done rule is likely to be gone before Emoni Bates or Bronny James arrives.

And according to sources that have spoken with NBC Sports, the goal here is to bring in 6-8 high school players every year. They are less concerned with ending college basketball than they are with taking the kids that are not interested in going to college and steering them towards the professional ranks in America as opposed to Australia, or China, or Italy.

Where college basketball needs to focus their attention is on the All-Americans that are leaving school to go undrafted. The Immanuel Quickleys, the Ty-Shon Alexanders, the Jordan Bones, the Tyler Cooks, the Jared Harpers. Kentucky will have a chance to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country if Quickley, who will be a contender for National Player of the Year, changes course and comes back to school. Instead, they are taking players off Creighton’s bench as grad transfers because they’re worried about their freshman point guard. Creighton will be a top five team in the country if Alexander decides to come back to school; reportedly, he’s in the draft for good regardless of where he is projected to get picked or the feedback he receives from NBA teams. They could win a Big East regular season title and, legitimately, a national championship with him. They’re more of a top 15-20 team without him.

This is something that I’ve repeatedly harped on. I will continue shouting it at the top of my lungs until I fully devolve into the old man shouting at a cloud meme: The single biggest issue that college basketball is facing is their annual talent drain. Recognizable faces disappear into professional obscurity, the continuity on rosters are torpedoed and the game itself becomes uglier and uglier. It’s never going away because people are always going to cheer for their favorite school and March Madness is always going to be gambling utopia, but if we really want the sport to grow, the key isn’t keeping Jalen Green or Isaiah Todd from the G League.

It’s providing a financial incentive to keep stars on campus for an extra season or two.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”