Jonathan Kuminga and Isaiah Todd all bet that bypassing college
basketball to get the jump on an NBA career was the right call.
teenagers will soon find out how well their preps-to-pros path –
being paid to play on a G League team designed to develop elite
prospects – has prepared them for it.
Kuminga were top-10 picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft, while Todd
was the opening pick of the second round after spending last season
with G League Ignite. That gave the developmental team as many
selections as any school — and more than bluebloods like Kentucky,
Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.
The trio is the
first wave of players to come through Ignite, and the latest
example of top prospects finding alternate routes to the
NBA that don’t include a stop on a college campus.
“I feel like
the Ignite team was perfect for a guy like me and the guys that
chose to go this route,” Todd said Friday. “We’re all bettering
ourselves. … We felt like learning from the NBA’s backyard directly
will put us ahead of the guys that may have been going to college
for whatever the route they chose to go.”
picks matched Florida State and Texas for the most in the draft,
and it joined Gonzaga and Tennessee as the only schools to produce
two first-round selections.
The option is
truly for a small subset of the most elite prospects because the
NBA maintains its age limit on draft-eligible players, sending most
to college for at least a year. Green, who landed at No. 2 with the
Houston Rockets, felt that one-year stop was worth missing out on
“I think the
difference with college and the G League is you’re a step ahead
early,” he said. “You learn how to be a pro on and off the court,
learn how to handle the business of basketball while still learning
the terminologies and the pace of the game. … I feel like you gain
more knowledge going there than – no offense – college just because
of the setting and the situation and the play style, things like
The G League
Ignite played its first season last year with a roster blending
those young talents with veterans of the NBA or other professional
leagues to act as mentors. The G League held its season in February
and March in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, amid the pandemic,
with the Ignite playing 15 regular-season games and one playoff
That means the
Walnut Creek, California-based team competes against other G League
teams filled with older and stronger players or plays international
exhibitions while also receiving offcourt life-skills training.
hasn’t disclosed how much players are paid, with Ignite spokeswoman
Mara Rudolph saying only that it varies. ESPN reported in April 2020 that
salaries could reach “$500,000-plus.”
court, the team also receives life skills training that included
sessions with NBA players and their family members, Rudolph said.
There were also speakers on a range of topics including financial
literacy, media training, sleep therapy and even voter-registration
“They taught us
how to, from handling money, all the way to saying no to family
members, all the way to living on our own and what to fuel our
bodies,” Todd said. “Because as young guys that just graduated high
school, not only do we have to learn how to become professional
basketball players, but we had to learn how to become young
Green was the first player to sign with Ignite, with the 6-foot-6
scoring guard from Napa, California, listed as 247sports.com’s No.
2-ranked recruit in the high school class of 2020.
Kuminga, a 6-6 forward born in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, was ranked No. 4 and picked at No. 7 by Golden State. Todd,
19, is a 6-10 forward who played prep ball in Raleigh, North
Carolina. He was the No. 20 recruit and was picked by Milwaukee
with the No. 31 pick before being dealt to Washington.
It wasn’t a
perfect run for Ignite. Another top preps-to-pros prospect, 6-5
guard Daishen Nix, went undrafted after being ranked as the No. 17
recruit in his class, highlighting the challenge facing even the
best of players by passing on the chance to develop as a potential
star at the college level against players their own age. (Nix will
reportedly play for the Philadelphia 76ers during Summer
Ignite already has four prospects lined up from this year’s class,
headlined by 247sports’ No. 3-ranked prospect in guard Jaden Hardy
from Henderson, Nevada.
Expect to see
more players going this route, especially with Ignite’s draft-night
“When I got to
the G League, I feel like it prepared me to pretty much everything,
on and off the court,” Kuminga said. “I feel like that was a good
decision that I made in my life to go out there.”