In the fall of 2009, five-star high school recruit Latavious Williams made history by being the first player to go straight from high school into the NBA D-League. Williams originally committed to play with the Memphis Tigers and recently hired head coach Josh Pastner, but he struggled to qualify academically and decided to back out of college altogether to play professionally. Williams had the option to go the Brandon Jennings route and play overseas and reportedly had an offer from a team in the Chinese Basketball League that was worth up to $100,000, but his parents decided to go into the NBA D-League and enter the ’09 D-League draft to gain exposure and experience.
Williams had a less than stellar first season in the D-League, averaging 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in a backup role, but he made a point to high school ballers everywhere that they could make the move from school straight to the D-League and succeed. What Williams did in that season in the D-League could set a trend for high school players to instantly make their way into pro ball and the NBA D-League.
Two former five-star high school recruits (Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson) could be following the path that Williams laid out by going straight to the D-League without lacing up their sneakers on a college court. Both of these players are currently destined to play for the UCLA Bruins, but they each have different connections that allowed the NCAA to make them ineligible for the upcoming college season. Muhammad, who was the number one prospect in the high school class of 2012, is connected to financial advisers Benjamin Lincoln and Ken Kavanagh. According to a report from CBS Sports, Lincoln is a North Carolina financial planner who’s brother was an assistant coach for Shabazz’s high school team in Las Vegas while Kavanagh funneled money to one of Muhammad’s summer league teams.
Kyle Anderson, who was the best small forward in the high school class of 2012 according to Rivals.com, is connected to Wasserman Group agent Thad Foucher. The reason why the name “Wasserman” is important is because the founder Casey Wasserman is an alum of UCLA and is one of the biggest donors to the school. The problem with that is that there could be questions about whether Anderson worked with Foucher and the Wasserman group to attend UCLA because he would be a big asset to the team that Casey Wasserman is an alumni of.
Now that we know why these two players are currently ineligible for the NCAA (investigation is ongoing), would these two players be ready to come in and succeed in the NBA Development League? Muhammad is the type of player that would be ready to play in the NBA right now, but he is in that one-year holding period because of that elephant in the room known as the “one year out of high school” rule to get into the NBA Draft. According to Kristofer Habbas of NBA Draft Insider, Muhammad has that high motor and intense play style that D-League coaches would absolutely love.
Habbas stated that he hasn’t seen a better, harder working player in his time covering players for Draft Insider. Muhammad has that relentless mindset that most really don’t have outside of the greats like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. He’s not the best outside shooter, but he has the length and athleticism to get to the hoop even against the intense competition in the D-League. Muhammad is just a physical workhouse and has the skills to succeed immensely in the D-League.
Anderson, on the other hand, plays a more cerebral style where he plays a slower pace than the athletic Muhammad, but he took control of his team last year as a leader and a playmaker. Anderson doesn’t motor past his defenders but methodically lulls his opponents to sleep while using his excellent ball-handling skills. Despite the fact that he’s a 6’7″ small forward, he can take the ball up the court like a point guard and is a superb playmaker for a man that plays his position. Like Shabazz, Anderson is an very inconsistent shooter, but him averaging 18.1 points per game last year at St. Anthony High School proves that he can be a scoring threat.
The question of whether Anderson is ready to go straight into the D-League is an interesting one because he’s more of an inconsistent shooter and doesn’t have the quickness or athleticism of a player like Muhammad, but his playmaking abilities and his solid defense could get him a decent bench role on any team in the NBA D-League.
After breaking down whether these two young players would succeed in the D-League, let’s discuss the issue of whether high school players should be allowed to go straight to the D-League. Before we answer that question let’s compare a kid going to the D-League to going overseas and playing in Europe. Brandon Jennings made the trek to Europe in the summer of 2008 to play for the Lottomatica Roma Italian team for a $1.65 million dollar contract. Now that decision was marked in controversy for skipping college to go earn money in Europe. How does that compare to Anderson and Muhammad going straight to the D-League from high school and earning money like Brandon Jennings??
To answer that question the main thing you’ll have to look at is money. Anderson and Muhammad could make up to $300,000 going overseas and taking the route that Jennings took or they could take a drastic pay cut and make somewhere between $24,000 to $ 26,000 a year to stay in the U.S and play in the D-League. It may sound obvious for a player to go overseas to play ball, but look at the simple fact that these kids are going to have the opportunity to play against more experienced opponents and more importantly to get familiar with playing under NBA rules.
The D-League also allows these two young players to be mentored by head and assistant coaches who have succeeded in the NBA (Eduardo Najera, former T-Wolf Doug West and Reggie Theus) so they can learn more about being a professional athlete both on and off of the court. All of those factors makes the D-League a viable option not only for Muhammad and Anderson but to future players everywhere that want to avoid college ball and make money after high school. Still the process of going from high school straight to the NBA D-League and skipping college altogether might be controversial to some people who are in favor of the ”one year out of high school” rule.
Those people I just described could have a problem with said players because the rule is meant to give players at least a year in college basketball, but those players would be working around that rule because the D-League only has an 18-year-old age limit. I personally think that a player spending some time in college is great because it gives them an opportunity to get some sort of college education. But if a player knows they’re physically ready for pro ball then it would sort of be a waste for him to be in college for a year, risking injury and hurting his draft stock. With that said, I believe the D-League should be a gateway for a player who has more pro aspirations than college dreams because of the previous points that I stated. Also, because the NBA seems to be so hellbent on that “one year out of high school” rule, the D-League and Europe seem to be the only options for these players.
Leave a comment down below whether or not you agree with the opinions I stated in this article and if you think that players should be allowed to skip college and go into the D-League.