Year after year, top recruits go to Duke, Kentucky, or some other blue blood school that gets the top prospects. These top guys either end up playing well and getting drafted in the first round, or they don’t and end up transferring multiple times on their way to possible overseas professional careers or washing out entirely. Does anyone remember Taylor King: the one Duke top prospect that ended up transferring multiple times, or does anyone believe Marques Boldon, Chase Jeter, or Wenyen Gabriel got that much better by going to Duke or Kentucky? Did any of these guys get the kind of education that propelled them to the millions of dollars they were destined to make as McDonald’s All-American players coming out of high school? One thing top prospects fail to realize is that whether you go to Duke, Butler, Howard University, or the G League, if you dominate, you will be drafted. The NBA has proven over the last decade that if you have NBA talent, they will find you. These scouts turn over every stone and lion long and hard to find the next franchise talent. Who knew when Giannas was 18 playing in Greece, he would be this dominant force that is not the MVP of the league? Outside of the Bucks, probably no one. Which leads me to wonder why top prospects don’t try other schools like Howard University or Hampton. ESPN just gave the NBL a TV contract mostly because LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, two of the top ten talents in the class, signed contracts with NBL teams. What this says is, “Wherever you play, scouts will see you play.” What scouts want to see is if prospects dominate the competition they play. If you’re a top prospect and you go to a blue blood school, have a good year, lose in the NCAA tournament, and go pro, and then fizzle out of the NBA, no one will remember you; but if you go to a school like a Murray State or Hampton University and make the tournament, you will always be a legend and schools always have a job waiting for a player that turned the program around.
The meaning of top prospects at small schools
If you’re a top prospect, not only will you bring the limelight to a small school, but you better prepare to be a star at the greatest level. If you go to a blue blood school, you end up playing with talent that is better than most schools and this allows you to hide your weaknesses and not play against the double teams you will face as a star player of a lottery franchise. So why not learn to beat those double teams while elevating sub par talent and become a folk hero in the process? Then you have the G League which is becoming the closest option to play in the NBA. Darius Bazley almost became the first player to blaze this path, only to decide against it because he thought he would be targeted being a prep-to-pro prospect. News flash: if you are a top HSBB prospect and you play well in the G League, you will be selected in the lottery. If you are scared to play grown men in the G League, you will be scared the following year when you play the cream of the crop in the NBA. If you want to be great or better than Jordan, you need to be a competitor and competing against older and tougher competition is how you become a legend. Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant will always be synonymous with prep to pros in the NBA because they made the leap when it wasn’t popular, and they competed like no other. LaMelo, RJ, and Terry Armstrong followed Terrance Ferguson’s path. Now it’s time for a top prospect to take a path of his own.