Memphis could have two players from its No. 1 ranked 2019 recruiting class selected in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft. But Tigers coach Penny Hardaway is battling an unprecedented new foe as he seeks to replicate that recruiting success.
It’s the new NBA G League program designed to prepare top high school prospects for the NBA. Hardaway said Friday that the G League’s methods for recruiting players feel “almost like tampering” and called on the NCAA to take “some more desperate measures” to show top prospects they are wanted in college basketball.
“It will affect how we recruit if the NCAA doesn’t do something about it, if they don’t keep taking steps forward to help these kids make money,” Hardaway said in a video interview released by the Memphis athletic department. “They’re going to take $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 (in the G League program) for five months to play on a select team and just do basketball instead of having to go to class.”
Jalen Green, the No. 3 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, said he would have attended Memphis if he had opted to play in college. But instead he chose to join the G League program, which left the Tigers without a commitment in their 2020 class. Green sent shockwaves throughout the sport when he announced his decision, and other top prospects from the 2020 class have followed his lead.
Hardway isn’t the only high-profile coach expressing skepticism over the G League’s methods of getting talent. Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed his reservations on his “Coffee with Cal” show this week, saying the program will disillusion “thousands and thousands and thousands” of high school players about the next steps of their basketball careers.
Hardaway and Calipari’s public skepticism of the G League program comes as UCLA deals with the most-surprising development yet in regards to the G League’s recruiting measures. The Bruins lost five-star signee Daishen Nix to the G League this week.
Green had not verbally committed or signed with a college when he announced he was going to the G League. No. 14 overall prospect Isaiah Todd was committed to Michigan but had not signed with the Wolverines when he followed suit.
But Nix had signed a letter of intent with UCLA, which made his defection from the class a shock in college basketball.
“I didn’t think the G League was built — and I could be wrong — to go and recruit kids that want to go to college out of going to college,” Hardaway said. “I thought they were going to be the organization that if you wanted to go overseas or you absolutely did not want to play college 100%, that this would be the best situation for you before you go into the NBA. But taking guys out of their commitments, and they’ve already signed but are continuing to talk to their parents … I really don’t agree with that.”