New basketball league aims to be an NCAA alternative for student athletes

May 2 2020, 12:07 pm

The following article was written for Daily Hive by Teru Ikeda, a freelance sportswriter and FIBA basketball agent.

Two five-star recruits — Isaiah Todd and Jalen Green — chose the G League over high-major NCAA programs last month.

Professionalizing early has long been considered a risky move — the chance of being “exposed” by more developed players, overseas destinations being far from home and having to face reality head-on.

Two-time NBA champion David West, however, has a solution to combine athlete compensation with education. The only caveat: players would lose their NCAA eligibility.

What is the PCL?

West is the Chief Operating Officer of the Professional Collegiate League (PCL), slated to start in 2021. It’ll be a pay-for-play collegiate league, where players will be paid 50-150 thousand per year to play for one of eight teams along the US Atlantic Coast. The season will occur during the summer months, allowing players to focus on post-secondary education from September to April. The league will also fully subsidize the players’ education at an institution of their choice, located near their respective pro teams or online.

West has been keeping a close eye on the hoops talent oozing out of the Great White North.

“We’re working to connect with the next generation of talent, continuing to build awareness around what we’re doing and continuing to spread the word,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon us to continue to spread the word so people get more familiar with us and what we’re trying to create.”

Like the G League and Australia’s National Basketball League, the PCL is actively wooing four- and five-star recruits away from the UNCs, Dukes and other blue-chip schools. The NCAA only offers a cost of attendance scholarship, while the PCL will pay the best young talent to compete against each other at fair market value. Even in light of California’s Fair Pay for Play legislation, players in the NCAA will not have “full citizenship rights.” The PCL will allow players to be full citizens, profiting off their skill as well as their name, image, and likeness.

Why it matters to Canadians

“I think this is a great opportunity for kids,” said Myck Kabongo, a former five-star recruit from Toronto who attended the University of Texas.

He left Toronto to attend a U.S. prep school and became a McDonald’s All-American. While playing for the Texas Longhorns, the NCAA ruled that he accepted “impermissible benefits” and served a 23-game suspension. Once a projected top-10 NBA draft pick, he went unselected in 2013.

Another Canadian adversely impacted by NCAA’s amateurism rules is Marcus Carr. Carr’s sophomore season was cut short by the coronavirus, and he sat out last season as the NCAA denied his eligibility waiver when transferring from University of Pittsburgh to Minnesota.

According to Sports Illustrated, the decision by Todd and Green to go to the G League could have a “ripple effect” on Canadians. Still new to basketball success, Canadians are still hungry for US validation, whether it’s being ranked by their scouting services or receiving high-major offers.

“It’s something that just needs to be retooled,” said Kabongo about the NCAA. “[Elite high school prospects] are a walking commodity to these big corporations, which are colleges and universities. They’re in the hustle business and I think more kids are starting to know that and understand that at a younger age.”

Challenges ahead

West said he and his team have spoken to countless parents — most have been very receptive to the possibility of taking a non-NCAA path to the pros.

“Anytime you’re looking at a new endeavour, there may be some hesitancy, but from a realistic standpoint, I think if a kid is looking for an alternative to going the traditional college route, then we’re going to be able to present that for you,” said West.

But the allure of March Madness maybe too great to give up for top recruits, according to Kabongo.

“I’ve always wanted to go to college because I wanted to win a national championship,” he said. “I loved Maryland when I was younger — Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, I used to love the teams that they used to have back in the day, so for me, college was always an option that I wanted to do.”

Attending a high-major NCAA program is still the tried-and-tested model to success. But the NCAA sitting monopoly has been challenged as more top-level recruits take alternate paths. And David West’s PCL is yet another viable option for Canadians.