Five-star recruits offer mixed reaction to G League alternative to college

Coach K: Duke doesn't 'embrace one-and-done' (1:29)

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski details the G League's latest proposal to pay elite prospects, and says he does not preach one-and-done for players, but ultimately their decisions are out of his hands. (1:29)

A group of five-star prospects and their inner circles, as well as one NBA general manager, offered reactions to the NBA G League initiative announced Thursday, expressing a mixture of skepticism and a desire for more details before reaching any conclusions.

Five of the 13 players in the 2019 ESPN 100 still yet to commit to a college were reached, as well as their families and coaches. Some outright rejected any possibility that they would consider the option, while others said it's something they would want to learn more about in the coming months before reaching a final decision about what route to take.

"My first reaction was I'd like to hear more," Richard Hurt, father of top-10 recruit Matthew Hurt, told ESPN in a phone conversation. "In terms of what this would involve. And who it would potentially involve. It's different. Now is it intriguing? There are some things that are intriguing about it. It's not the money. It's the opportunity to focus solely on what your craft will be. Similar to what a trade school would be.

"Matthew has aspirations to play in the NBA. If this moves him closer to that, it's something he would have to evaluate. I am a pretty big proponent of the college experience, but ultimately this decision will be Matthew's. People ask me all the time. 'What does Matthew want to study?' Basketball is what I say. There is something to be said for being singularly focused on what you can do to make the NBA."

Isaiah Stewart, the No. 4 prospect in the ESPN 100, doesn't appear to be as curious about the possibility, telling ESPN's Jeff Borzello that it "is pretty cool that they're at least installing an option for high school players that doesn't want to do college and go straight to the pros," but adding that for him personally "my eyes are set on college," and that the G League option is "never a thought that crossed my mind."

C.J. Walker, the No. 19 prospect in the ESPN 100, told Borzello that "it's interesting to say the least, but it's a big risk. It's something I wouldn't do. I want the experience of being on a college campus, and develop more on and off the court. You have to be physically and mentally ready for that challenge."

Five-star recruit Trendon Watford has a unique perspective, as his older brother Christian starred at Indiana from 2009 to 2013 and is about to start his third season in the G League as part of the Raptors 905 training camp that was assembled this week.

"He feels there are some positives as far as the money is concerned," Trendon Watford said. "He also feels that [it will] be tough for younger players in the G League, as everyone there is trying to make it to the next level. Those are grown men. There are people that are even older than him [27] playing in it."

Trendon Watford told ESPN that he's likely too deep into his recruitment to change course at this stage and seriously pursue the G League option, and expressed skepticism about whether his peers would feel differently.

"I am already nearing a decision soon about which college to attend. I just feel that my class is already committed. Players are in their recruitment," he said. "Maybe there will be two or three players that will look into it. But I might be wrong."

One thing Watford said might change the thinking of players in his ilk is the possibility of endorsement opportunities, such as the one announced by Darius Bazley this week in the New York Times, worth $1 million in guaranteed money and up to $14 million if all incentives are reached.

"For sure that might change things. If you can get $14-15 million off one endorsement, then you never know," he said. "A higher-caliber player can maybe get even more. That, on top of the G League money, definitely has its positives, especially if that's the best option for them and their family."

Top-10 recruit Precious Achiuwa told ESPN he has been "reading up" and thinks that the new G League initiative is a "great idea" for certain players who aren't interested in the college experience, but that it's unlikely that he personally will be swayed.

"My family really values education," Achiuwa told ESPN. "College is something that is very important to us."

Still, Achiuwa said he thinks there are others that might consider it a serious alternative.

"It depends on the individual," he said. "Some people might not want to go to college. For those people, going straight to the G-League might be a better option. Having access to pro facilities, trainers, weight rooms. The opportunity to work on their game full time, work like a pro. Putting their mind exclusively into their game and their fit into the next level. A lot of people will be looking at this process."

Achiuwa's AAU coach, Oz Cross of defending Under Armour Challenge champions New Heights, echoed some of his thoughts.

"I think it's definitely something we would love to find out more info about," Cross said. "It's every kid's dream to get to the NBA. I also think education is extremely important. Colleges give kids a chance to mature and they are dealing with coaches who are used to kids their age, so I would be interested to find out what's the plan on grooming an 18-year-old kid for a year. I don't know all the details yet. We're still finding out what this entails."

The desire to learn more about the G League initiative, and the extent of the NBA's involvement in every step of the process, was repeated again and again by virtually every person ESPN spoke with as being a crucial factor.

"Any time you get in on the ground level there will be learning curves that, unfortunately, you are the experimental case for," Hurt told ESPN. "Getting more on where the commitment level is from the NBA would be helpful. Knowing the minds that are in the league office, if they commit to this, and they want it to be successful, it will be successful. Whether this becomes a viable option will heavily depend on how much of a commitment the NBA makes. If the NBA puts their full weight behind it, that's intriguing."

An NBA GM said it has yet to be determined just how much of a role teams will play in this process. The GM was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

"What the NBA does with the no-contact rules that are in place will go a long way in deciding how successful this venture can be," the GM told ESPN. "Right now, no one from my team is allowed to have any type of contact with players who aren't officially on the NBA draft early-entry list that gets released in April of that draft year. We can't even talk to them.

"Our G League facilities and development staffs can't compete with the ones that college programs have, but the ones we have in the NBA obviously can. How hands-on will they allow my coaches and trainers to be with these 'select' players? Can I have them in all summer and fall working out with our NBA players like we do with a lot of our G League guys? Can we send them back and forth from the G League to NBA practices like we do with our two-way contract players? What is the mechanism for that?

"College folks like to act like they have a monopoly on developing talent for the NBA, but I'd argue that no one knows how to get players more ready for the NBA than actual NBA teams. The question is how much we'll be allowed to tap into that. The rules that are currently in place will need to be changed. I think having the opportunity to work with elite prospects on a day-to-day basis is something that would be highly beneficial to both sides."