Darius Bazley may have taken the first step in ending the NCAA’s long-held grip on the path to the National Basketball Association.
Fresh off an 11 point, 7 rebounds and 2 assists performance in the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday, the eighth-ranked prospect in the country on 247Sports’ Composite Rankings announced on Thursday that he’s decommiting from Syracuse and turning pro, heading straight to the NBA G League.
Bazley had strong words for the move in a story written by Yahoo’s Shams Charania, which dropped on Thursday. In in, Bazley explained why he wants to clear a path for high school athletes to turn pro directly after graduation instead of playing college hoops.
“Someone has to start the fire,” Bazley said. “And I believe I’m going to do that.”
Bazley said he didn’t take this decision lightly, and he talked with his mother, officials at Princeton High School where he played, and others to make sure he was doing the right thing in leaving Syracuse to turn pro.
“This is a life-changing decision,” Bazley, one of the top players in the Class of 2018, 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.
The NCAA has long argued that college basketball is the best path to preparing prospects for the NBA and there’s the value of an education and what being a student-athlete is, something the non-profit often hinges its claims of amateurism on. But in viewing the current landscape and the goal of eventually getting a spot in the NBA, Bazley said the G League had “the most to offer.”
“The G League will have the most to offer, considering that is the development league for the NBA,” he continued. “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.”
The story noted that Bazley will still participate in the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit, and his strong showing in the All-American Game is certainly a good start for raising Bazley’s profile. Projected to be one of the top prospects in the 2019 Draft, Bazley turns 18 in June and then will then be able to sign a G League contract in September, entering the league’s draft in October.
This isn’t an entirely insane idea, either. LeBron James spoke in recent months about how the G League can be used to develop talent, while those young players can also get paid. If others see Bazley succeed in the G League and ultimately continue on his path to being a high draft pick in 2019, it might become the new norm. It’s years away, of course, but Bazley feels he can be the first to buck the system successfully and start something new. He took that first step on Thursday.