For various reasons, college basketball isn’t always the way to go for players straight out of high school. Some just aren’t suited for college, others aren’t eligible in the NCAA, and then there are players who want to start making money right away.
The NBA has the rule that all US players have to be one year removed from high school, so going straight to the NBA, isn’t an option anymore. Therefore, some players make the choice to develop their skills overseas for a season, and make themselves eligible for the next draft.
The Ball Family, and their youngest son LaMelo Ball, have been in the news for quite some time. His oldest brother, Lonzo, has just been traded to the Pelicans, his middle brother was kicked out of UCLA, and LaMelo will never even get the chance to play NCAA ball, as he’s no longer NCAA eligible.
His father pulled LaMelo out of high school, as he didn’t agree with the playing style of the basketball coach, and after LiAngelo was removed from UCLA, he moved them both to Lithuania to play for a professional team. This immediately meant that LaMelo could no longer go to the NCAA, even though he was quite a high prospect.
Now, a year later, LaMelo has signed with the Ilwarra Hawks of the NBL. He’ll probably only stay in Australia for a year, as he’s announced that he’ll be getting ready for next year’s draft. It isn’t a weird choice to go to the NBL, as it has proved to be a strong league in the past few years, and several talented NBL players have made the step to the NBA.
Hampton’s contract in the NBL may mean the beginning of the end for the College basketball, as if he’s successful, Hampton is showing other players that there are more paths to the NBA than just college.
A couple of weeks after Hampton signed with the New Zealand Breakers, he already got a five-year shoe deal with Li-Ning. Li-Ning is a popular Chinese brand, who also had Dwyane Wade under contract. Even if, for whatever reason, Hampton doesn’t make it to the NBA, some of his expensive contract is still guaranteed. This would actually be a game changer, as a lot of people were afraid for Zion Williamson’s career in the NBA, after he injured himself during his time with Duke.
We’ll have to wait until the 2020 draft to see whether Hampton made the right choice.
Brian Bowen II
Bowen was also declared ineligible for the NCAA, so he had no other choice than to find another way to make it to the NBA, and signed with the Sydney Kings of the NBL. He needed quite some time to adapt to the grown style of play, but as soon as he found his way, his stats started improving as well. In the end, Bowen had a good season in Australia.
His draft stock was boosted, and he was even mentioned as a lottery pick before the draft, but eventually, Bowen went undrafted. Luckily for him, soon after the draft, he signed a two-way contract with the Indiana Pacers.
Jennings was a very successful high school athlete, and he even won several awards, among which the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award, the EA Sports Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year. The future was looking great for him, as a lot of people ranked him as the number one prospect of his class.
In 2006, Jennings announced he would go to USC, but changed his mind a couple of months later, and committed to the Arizona Wildcats. But, in the end, he decided that college basketball wasn’t for him, and that he could get more experience playing in the Euroleague, and that he could already make money at the same time.
He was signed by the Lottomatica Roma in Italy, a team that played in the Serie A as well as the Euroleague. And, as he was an interesting NBA prospect, Under Armour immediately offered him a contract. In that year, Jennings did a decent job in both leagues, but he didn’t really stand out.
Jennings was the 10th pick in the 2009 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.
During his high school years, Mudiay was considered to be the second-best recruit in his class, and was even expected to go 1st in the 2015 draft. At first, Mudiay had committed to the Southern Methodist University, but he changed his mind. He decided to follow Brandon Jennings example and sign a professional contract in China. So, for the year he had to wait to become eligible for the NBA draft, Mudiay signed with the Guangdong Southern Tigers.
He wasn’t very successful with the Tigers, as he was injured after just 10 games, and ended up only played 12 official games in total. He did have decent numbers, as he averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and almost 6 assists per game. Eventually, Mudiay became the 7th pick in the 2015 draft, six picks lower than everyone expected the year before.