June 12, 2017, 3:15 pm
During a Monday workout with the Hornets, draft hopeful Terrance Ferguson had some words of advice for young up and comers with sights on the NBA. Charlotte beat reporter Rick Bonnell was there to see Ferguson’s workout when the 19-year-old went into his decision to pass on college hoops.
“[G]o overseas, the way I did, and get your money’s worth. Get paid for what you’re doing.”
Ferguson had previously committed to Alabama before changing to Arizona until he decided to forgo the NCAA route in favor of professional basketball on the international stage. He didn’t receive a ton of playing time with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s pro circuit but is still shaping up as a mid-first round pick in most mock drafts.
He’s posted an underwhelming 4.6 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.2 steals and 0.3 blocks in a limited role, averaging only 15.1 minutes per game. That’s to be expected for young players playing internationally, as Ferguson is essentially the low man on the totem pole despite his draft stock. It’s also tough for a young man to uproot his life and move halfway around the world, so adjustments extend beyond the court as well.
His play has improved over time, naturally, and he’s been lauded for his strong shooting and should be able to step in as an effective spot-up player from the jump.
Ferguson makes a few salient points concerning the benefits of skipping college. Firstly, playing professionally meant he could focus solely on basketball. While NCAA programs have come under fire for vastly overstating the educational half of “student-athlete,” there remains a bevy of aspects outside of basketball to life on a college campus. That’s not to say that Ferguson’s time in Australia has been all about hoops, but it certainly has cut out a lot of the noise and side responsibilities while he’s learned to practice and play at a professional level.
Secondly, it has helped him prepare for the early years of an NBA career. As mentioned, he plays in a reserve role for the 36ers, meaning he’ll know what it’s like to function as a bit part early in his NBA run. Many college draftees are stars who are accustomed to a certain amount of touches, shots or minutes and may not be ready or enthused to accept a limited role. There’s also the added benefit of Ferguson playing against older, stronger players as a 19-year-old.
While those added benefits make plenty of sense on their own, Ferguson did say that his decision was mostly driven by the financial aspect. It’ll hopefully reignite some debate about the NCAA’s refusal to play their athletes while pulling in record money.
“At college, the only people making money off you are the coaches. You’re not making anything off your jersey sales, ticket sales. Not anything,” Ferguson said.
For the heads of such a massive industry to reserve all that cash for the sake of preserving the assumed integrity of amateur athletics is disingenuous at best. That money is brought in on the back of the players’ labor and it’s foolish to fight for the sanctity of “student-athletics” when so many high level players are obviously using the NCAA as a stepping stone. Until the NCAA changes their tune, more and more players will be considering maximizing their worth by playing elsewhere.
Realistically, amateur basketball players have a very small chance at success. They have an even smaller chance of setting themselves up for life with huge money. For some, the opportunity to be compensated during a very short career window is one that isn’t worth passing up, even if it means a lesser profile headed into draft season. There’s no stopping biology and players have a very limited “prime” – to waste a year of it while administrators and officials get rich off your “love of the game” seems deeply unfair.
Of course, some people in high places around the league may have questions about the quality of competition overseas even if the opposition presents more of a physical challenge. Expect draft reform to come up this offseason as the NBA tries to help tackle the one-and-done issue.
Given the relatively uneventful careers of Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay, perhaps Ferguson will buck the trend and parlay his year abroad into sustained NBA success while being compensated accordingly. Here’s hoping he can prove the overseas route makes for a viable option.