First high school-to-G League prospect: 'I'm aware this might start a trend'

ATLANTA — With McDonald’s All American Darius Bazley becoming the first five-star prospect to take the high school-to-G League approach, there is a strong belief around the NBA that this could open the door for more players as an alternative avenue to playing professionally.

When asked about a top prospect decommitting from college to play in the G League, NBA executives said it could become a portal for change. “This has the ability to alter rules moving forward and show prospects the G League is a true option,” a team official told Yahoo Sports.

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“As the G League grows, the way teams develop players under NBA styles and under NBA eyes, it makes sense,” another team executive said of the move. “There’s no new culture in the G League, nothing out of the NBA norm, and you’re growing in an NBA environment. It could open the floodgates for players who want to focus on basketball and development, first and foremost.”

Darius Bazley is forging a new path for prospects.
Darius Bazley is forging a new path for prospects.

Bazley, 17, speaks as a poised professional already, and says he plans to commit to a rigorous professional workout regimen in preparation to join current and former NBA players in the G League. From Brandon Jennings bypassing college for Europe in 2008 to Terrance Ferguson decommitting at Arizona to play in Australia in 2016, players have taken different paths to the pros. No McDonald’s All-American has gone straight to the G League, however.

Growing up, Bazley went to several major basketball camps, traveling to play the prospects, and he admits part of his decision is to give players an example to follow. In short, Bazley knows he is making history.

“I’m aware that this might start a trend and that’s one of the reasons why I am doing this,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports. “I’m outspoken and I like to speak on things. This is me speaking through my actions, speaking through my character. This is going to happen down the road and become more common. But someone has to start the fire — and I believe I’m going to do that, and it’s very important to me.

“Part of me thinking this decision through, I looked at the guys coming out of the G League. I made sure that I knew what I was getting myself into. 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.

“Whenever I’m at basketball camps, I never hear any discussion about going from high school to the G League. But I believe now, there will be discussion about it. Not only are you getting paid to play the sport you love, but you’re getting the development that you need and want. You don’t have to worry about going to class, and don’t get me wrong, education is important and I’m going to still take classes at my own pace. But I’ll be around NBA games, focus on my body and focus on my development 24/7, without having to worry about anything else. This is strictly basketball. That’s what I want.”

Still, the NBA and players union must negotiate any changes to the “one-and-done” policy, and Bazley’s position will give the G League its first test in handling a premiere prospect. Currently, player salaries in the G League have bases of $19,500 or $26,000.

“I’m confident I can succeed at this,” Bazley told Yahoo Sports. “I know people will have something to say, but people have something to love, hate, criticism, but you have to push through that. Like Kevin Durant when he went to the Warriors, the whole world started hating him. But he seems very happy. So why can’t I be?

“There’s no reason to be afraid,” Bazley said. “Players are doing this, going overseas, but just not to the G League. I believe this will transcend and people will start to realize this is OK to do. People will always say, ‘He did it, why can’t I?’ That’s going to start … ‘Darius went to the G League instead of going to college, ‘Why can’t I?’ ”

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