G League Ignite

An alternative route for high school basketball players:

One of the hottest topics in the sports world over the past couple of years is whether or not college athletes should be compensated for their efforts. NCAA athletes across all sports are often given athletic scholarships, allowing them to represent various colleges around the nation, but they are not given paid salaries despite playing at a similar level to some professional sports leagues.

With the debate gaining more traction recently, there are becoming more viable alternatives for athletes coming out of high school who seek professional sports careers, without having them take the college route.

One alternative that is quickly becoming more popular in men’s basketball is the NBA G League “professional path program”. This program was recently created to allow some of the top high school basketball players to develop their skills for a year, before going into the NBA Draft.

The program pays elite talent players up to $700,000 while also giving them full scholarships to Arizona State University, should they choose to use it at any point. This pathway program allows these young prospects to gain valuable experience in a fast-growing basketball league comprised of former NBA players, top overseas talent, former notable college players, and great player development coaching staffs.

Some of the top players in the NBA played in the NBA G League early in their careers, so the results speak for themselves. This current NBA G League season introduced the “NBA G League Ignite” team, which was created as a part of the pathway program.

The team plays exhibition games against the other teams in the G League in order to help prepare the young prospects on the roster for the next level. The 2020-21 Ignite team consists of a collection of young players coming straight out of high school, and well-known NBA veterans including, Jarrett Jack, Bobby Brown, and Amir Johnson.

The Ignite was able to land the top recruit in the 2020 recruiting class in shooting guard, Jalen Green and the number one recruit in the 2021 recruiting class, Jonathan Kuminga who reclassified to the 2020 class in order to join the NBA G League.

The Ignite are currently playing their exhibition games in the NBA G League Bubble in Orlando, Florida where they are 4-1, quickly showing the potential of the pathway program. They have already taken down former NBA point guard Jeremy Lin in their first game of the season, and they also played the Westchester Knicks on February 18th.

G League Ignite Vs. Seton Hall’s Myles Powell:

Westchester is currently being led by Seton Hall’s own, Myles Powell who was one of the top players in all of college basketball from 2018-2020. The Knicks took down the Ignite 121-113 in a hard fought game where Powell contributed 17 points off the bench. Despite the loss where the Ignite’s star players struggled, the game showed how these young prospects can play against a well-seasoned college basketball star, who is also only in his first year as a professional.

Future of the pathway program:

With Daishen Nix, another prospect on the roster, Green and Kuminga’s stock rising after each game, it is inevitable that we will soon see more top high school basketball players take this alternative route instead of attending a year of college. The pathway program sets itself aside stands out compared to the path taken by NBA rookies LaMelo Ball or RJ Hampton who participated in a similar program in the NBL, the top professional basketball league in Australia.

Giving these young players to chance to develop their skills against some of the top talent in the world, while still giving them scholarships to get a college education is a game-changer. It will be exciting to see how the NBA G League Ignite team continues to perform, and how it will expand in the near future.