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Memphis' Penny Hardaway Compares G League Luring Top CBB Recruits to Tampering

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2020

Memphis' head coach Penny Hardaway watches his players in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

University of Memphis men's basketball coach Penny Hardaway has reservations about the NBA G League's new professional pathway program.

According to Jason Munz of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Hardaway compared the NBA recruiting elite high school players to the G League to tampering in a video interview released Friday:

"For me, I didn't think the G League was built—and I could be wrong—to go and recruit kids that want to go to college out of going to college. I thought they were going to be the organization that was going to be, if you want to go overseas or you absolutely did not want to play college 100 percent, that this would be the best situation for you before you go into the NBA.

"But taking guys out of their commitments [or] they've already signed and continuing to talk to their parents, it's almost like tampering. I really don't agree with that."

Multiple high-profile high school players have chosen the G League over college in recent weeks, including 5-star guard Jalen Green, who told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he would have chosen to attend Memphis if not for the opportunity to go to the G League and make a significant amount of money.

Per Munz, it has been reported that Green and other high school players who choose the G League will have a chance to make more than $1 million for one season between their salary and endorsement opportunities.

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ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony reported that players will make $500,000 or more in salary alone whereas players currently can't earn any money playing college basketball.

That is likely to change soon, though, as the NCAA announced Wednesday that the Division I Board of Governors supported rule changes that will allow college athletes to profit from their likenesses beginning with the 2021-22 academic year.

It may be a necessary move from the NCAA's perspective since the G League is becoming an increasingly attractive option for top recruits. Most top recruits are one-and-done players at the college level anyway, so going to the G League allows them to make money and perhaps become even better prepared for the NBA as part of a one-year development program.

According to 247Sports, Green was ranked as the No. 2 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class, meaning he likely would have made a massive impact at Memphis and potentially helped them be national championship contenders.

While Green is the highest-profile player to commit to the G League thus far, he isn't the only one. Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix—who are ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, by 247Sports in the Class of 2020—are going to the G League as well.

There are still plenty of elite prospects choosing college over the G League, but if the G League experiment proves to be successful next season, it could become a far bigger issue for college basketball moving forward.