Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and Isaiah Todd. Last year on July 29th, these three players became the first players in NBA history to be drafted from the G-League Ignite team, which has paved paths for players of all kinds. Many young players have opted out of the expected college scholarship and signed with the G-League team. NBA veterans such as Jarrett Jack and Kosta Koufos have used this as a chance to potentially revive their playing careers. And the majority of the teams’ games are full of undrafted players from the previous drafts. This mold has created a great environment for the collection of players who are trying to make it to the NBA.
The G-League Ignite Program is Doing What the NCAA Couldn’t
How Does the G-League Ignite Program Prepare Players for the NBA?
One of the G-League Ignite’s top features is its quality coaching staff led by Jason Hart, a former player with nine years of NBA experience. Before being a part of the G-League Ignite staff, he was the Associate Head Coach of the USC Trojans. Other coaching staff members include Rod Baker, a former D-League head coach, and Thomas Scott, a former Lakers assistant coach.
G-League Ignite has also enjoyed rampant success due to its rigorous NBA-like schedule. The team plays a total of 28 games this season between October 29th and March 13th. The schedule includes three back-to-backs throughout the season. In comparison, this is just under 50% that the average NBA team plays in the same time frame. This demanding schedule helps players prepare for the NBA like no other.
These founding principles of the G-League Ignite program have helped them sway multiple big names away from playing in the NCAA. The intense professional experience is not only something players desire but by NBA teams as well. Entering the NBA with experience playing against fringe NBA talent consistently will never be attainable in college.
The professional route to the NBA is something that has existed for a long time. There are many stars of the past and present who played professional basketball in Europe before heading to the NBA. One of the most notable players is Luka Doncic. Doncic was nothing short of a star in the Euro League. This eventually translated to his ability to succeed in the NBA.
The Euro League and the G-League are equally great establishments for young players to hone their skills. They share the competitiveness of any other professional league. Young players have the chance to play under long-tenured players and coaches, some of whom have NBA experience. This directly impacts their development and helps them blossom into better prepared NBA players.
Higher Scouting Accuracy
For many scouts, the madness of March provides enough film on top prospects to get a quality overview of the upcoming draft class. This year, collegiate stars such as Chet Holmgren and Jaden Ivey continued to boost their draft stock with quality performances. Kentucky stars such as Oscar Tshiebwe and TyTy Washington saw their values drop after a loss in the first round to St. Peters.
The G-League on the other hand does not force players into big games with too much value. Scouts lose the chance to see players perform under pressure, but G-Leaguers don’t suffer the same hit to their value due to a single performance. As the nation binges the NCAA tournament, some scouts would rather tune into G-League Ignite games to learn more about which potentially franchise-altering players they should draft; and their work might just pay off.
Notable Names in the 2022 Draft
Daniels (10), Beauchamp (22), and Hardy (26), all rank in the top 30 of ESPN’s Best Available Ranking. This would equate to three first-round selections for Ignite alumni. Foster is ranked 56th, meaning that four total G-League ignite players would be drafted, setting a new record for the program.
Foster, ranked 56th, is also a likely candidate to be drafted, along with the three others. He has also benefitted from the G-League experience which aids them immensely in the draft process.
Without the help of G-League coaches and experienced competition, Daniels would not have developed into the defensive mastermind that makes NBA coaches drool. Hardy would not have gotten the chance to play in the NBA-style environment which made him blossom into the elite soccer he is today, and Beauchamp would not have learned to use his physical build to create chances for his team on both ends of the floor.
The creation of the G-League Ignite has turned some of the best prospects into well seasoned and more complete players, much more than any NCAA college could have. While colleges will attempt to recruit potential players with facilities and large excited crowds, there is nothing that compares to the experience of the players that choose to play in the G-League.
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