By LARRY VAUGHT
I was at McCracken County Munstang Madness in January when I talked to MarJon Beauchamp about the different career path he was taking. Instead of worrying about which college to pick, he had already decided he would start training for the 2021 NBA draft in June and would not go to college.
Among the schools who had already offered the 6-6 guard then were Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State, Marquette, Washington and Washington State.
Several elite players — LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton — opted not to play in college last year but went overseas to play and now are projected as top 10 NBA draft picks. Beauchamp thought about that but decided this path would be better for him and thinks more players may start doing the same thing.
“I have talked to a couple of top players about it and they are thinking about it (this year). I think I am starting a trend and more people will be coming into it,” Beauchamp said.
He’s right — or at least sort of.
Jalen Green, a one-time UK recruiting target, announced Thursday rather than play at Auburn or Memphis he would take about $500,000 to play in a new version of the G-League. Isaiah Todd said earlier this month he would not go to Michigan as planned but would instead turn pro — probably knowing he could get a deal similar to what Green did.
“I don’t think anyone is better than me in my class,” the 6-7 Green told me during Marshall County Hoopfest.
He’s rated as one of the top three players in the 2020 recruiting class and at one time looked like he would be headed to Kentucky as part of John Calipari’s loaded recruiting class.
“It was supposed to happen but me and Kentucky parted ways,” Green said in December. “They are no longer in the running. My college offers are still open. Biggest decision I have ever made but Kentucky no longer is recruiting me.”
There was speculation then that Calipari thought Green might go overseas to play professionally rather than attend college. Green said then he would not but never did I hear any mention of a $500,000 G-League deal.
“The ultimate end goal is to get to the NBA. With that being said, I have decided to partner with the NBA G-League’s new team for elite players,” Green posted on his Instagram page. “The main reason for this is I want to get better, I want to develop a more better game. I want to work on my craft and things like that. That way, I can be better for the NBA. This is the best route to prepare myself to get one step closer to be ready when that time comes.”
Todd, another one-time UK recruit, could be preparing to take the same route.
Green apparently won’t a play for an official NBA G-League team but will be part of a unique G-League program that will include pro coaching, top prospects and veteran players who’ll combine training, and exhibition game competitions national teams and NBA Academies.
And remember the panic UK fans felt earlier this week when signee Terrence Clarke was approached with the same $500,000 offer Green got but turned it down — or at least said he did.
Unless the NCAA finds a way to let players earn money or the NBA allows players to go directly from high school to the NBA, then offers like this from the G-League will only pick off more top players and Beauchamp may turn out to be right about a new trend with elite high school players.