Penny Hardaway says G-League recruitment of players ‘almost like tampering’

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Jalen Green, a player considered a top-three pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, backed out of his commitment to the University of Memphis and instead joined a G League select team, which will pay him $500,000 next season (whenever that starts). Not long after, Isaiah Todd (Michigan) and Daishen Nix (UCLA) did the same thing, although for less money.

Penny Hardaway, the coach at Memphis, doesn’t like it. Not exactly shocking news, but he vented about it to Jason Munz of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal (as part of a video Q&A with reporters).

“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,” Hardaway said. “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.”

I can’t believe that the NBA would come in with its money and dirty the pristine waters of college recruiting. (Re-read that sentence in your best sarcastic voice, in case you missed it the first time.)

The G League was built as a developmental minor league, a place teams could put players who needed the kind of run and focused attention an NBA team cannot provide in the middle of the season.

These high schoolers need development, and if they’d rather get paid to do it in the G League as opposed to at Memphis — or UCLA or Kentucky or wherever — then it is their call. That’s not tampering, it’s options.

The NBA maybe came in late, but guys change their mind about what college they will attend all the time (as do coaches, who jump program to program up the ladder). It’s funny to hear any college coach complaining that recruiting being a dirty business — we all know it is, and that the money flows from shoe companies and boosters to players already. The NBA was upfront about paying players, at least.

Soon enough, the NBA will be drafting high schoolers again (although when remains a question mark, that process is rumored to have gotten stuck a little), and the NCAA will have to adapt. This is part of that. Maybe the NCAA needs to work with the NBA to put in a “baseball rule” that says a player who goes to college has to spend two (or three) seasons there before jumping to the NBA. The top talents may want nothing to do with that but they are jumping to the G-League already and will go pro. This way, college programs get a little stability and a chance to develop players on their own. Whatever they do, the NCAA needs to adapt because the game is changing.