WALNUT CREEK (Calif.) Generation Z is known for having FOMO (fear or missing out). Teenagers on the G LeagueIgnite are at risk of FOMO, as they miss out on the big colleges and enjoy the college life.
The Ignite’s young men collectively affirm that there is no such issue with their eyes on the NBA.
It’s been a great environment, learning every single day, and learning from the vets,” Jaden Hardy (19-year-old Ignite guard) told The Undefeated. Do I have FOMO about college? No. Im a pro now. I approach the game differently now. I am here to work, be better every day, and be the very best version of me.
I don’t really care about the guys in college. I’m playing against guys who were in the NBA and are now going down to the G League. I’d rather watch them than the NBA as I’ll be playing against them soon.
Sterling Scoot Henderson, Ignite guard: I wouldn’t say Im happy. I am ecstatic. I can see myself growing every day.
It’s all part of the Ignite’s plan to participate in the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas. This eight-team tournament runs through Wednesday. It serves as an in-season opportunity for NBA teams to scout.
G League Ignite was established by the NBA in April 2020. It debuted during 2020-2021 season. The Ignite allows selected teenage players to forgo college basketball and receive a season of developmental basketball. There are also limited G League games as preparation for the NBA draft. These teenagers will likely be paid between $125,000 and $500,000 and play with veteran players. They also have a coaching staff with NBA ties and direction.
Jalen, a heralded guard, was the first major commitment to 2020-21 G LeagueIgnite roster. Jalen Green, a pre-professional player ranked No. 1 by ESPN in the Class 2020, was paid a salary of approximately $500,000. Other notable American teenagers who declined college for the Ignite were forward Jonathan Kuminga and forward Isaiah Todd, as well as guard Daishen Nix.
The Ignite games were televised a lot, but not on the same scale as the games for college freshmen like Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs. The pandemic meant that 17 of the Ignites games were played without fans at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.
I spoke with Isaiah Todd and J.K. [Kuminga]Henderson said that Henderson and Henderson both loved it, even though they were in a bubble for the entire time. The basketball experience and the skill development were great.
During the draft, The Ignite established itself as a viable route to the NBA. The Houston Rockets selected Green with the second overall selection. The Golden State Warriors selected Kuminga as the seventh overall pick. The Washington Wizards selected Todd in the second round (31stOverall) and has participated in five games. Nix was not drafted but signed a two way contract with the Houston Rockets.
The Ignite was more appealing after seeing the results for Green Kuminga, Todd, and Todd.
Hardy stated that Jalen and Kuminga were the people I spoke to before I arrived in this country. They both said that they had enjoyed their experience. They encouraged me to just get out there and run your business, doing what you do best. You already have the tools. Just do it.
Michael Foster Jr., an Ignite power forward, said that seeing them made my decision much easier. I loved the work they did with Todd and Kuminga. They were my positions. They were my draft picks.
The Ignite team arrived at training camp with Jason Hart, a former NBA assistant coach and NBA guard. Hart took over from Brian Shaw, the former NBA head coach. Hart is now an assistant coach for the LA Clippers. The Ignite are now back in Walnut Creek, but their home games will still be held in Las Vegas. The Ignite are also quietly recruiting potential prospects and bringing them in as official visitors, just like colleges.
The Ignite also landed another elite class this season. Hardy, 19, was ranked second in ESPN 100s Class 2021 and is projected to be the Top 5 pick in 2022 NBA Draft. Foster, 18, was ranked ninth in ESPN’s 100 Class of 2021. He is a first-round prospect. The Undefeated has been informed by NBA scouts that Dyson Daniels (Ignites Australian guard) is attracting more attention. China is also hoping for its next NBA player in forward Fanbo Zeng, 18. Eugene Pooh Jeter (ex-NBA player), CJ Miles and Amir Johnson are also on the Ignite team.
Daniels said that this route was the best for him on and off the court. We have veterans who have done their part. [NBA]They can help us with our careers. They guide us in what we need to do better. There are some really great coaches.
Foster: It has been great. I am getting better each day. I enjoy the coaching. It’s a step forward. The practices. The [defensive] rotations. The plays. Physicality. It is essential.
The 17-year-old Henderson is one of the most intriguing Ignite young stars. He is eligible for the 2023 NBA Draft.
Henderson left Kell High School, Marietta, Georgia for a $1 million deal to join the Ignite. The five-star prospect from high school was the first to commit to Ignite. He also became the first to be signed by a player who is not eligible for the NBA draft in the next year.
Henderson has never been older. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game through 17 games. He said Jeter, a former guard for the Sacramento Kings, was a great mentor to him.
Henderson feels like he is missing out by not going to high school, prom and homecoming, or graduation.?
Henderson said, “I feel like I’ve moved past all that.” I didn’t like all that stuff. I have one goal. All else can wait. People who were going to prom will be there.
The Ignite also monitor their young players outside of the court.
Ignite players are all housed in Walnut Creek’s luxury apartment complex. They also stay in the same hotel while in Las Vegas and on other trips. Dwight Pruitt, an Ignite security guard, and Monique Stansell (operations manager) both live in the Walnut Creek apartment block. The entire team, including coaches and other staff, keeps in touch via a text-chain. The NBA’s COVID-19 protocols allow the players to socialize with family members and loved one, provided they are fully vaccinated.
Ignite players participated in a Concord community service event. The younger players take part in life skills training which includes media training, nutrition and financial literacy.
Daniels said that outside the court, we have all the resources needed. We have nutritionists. We learn about ourselves. G League provides all-round lifestyle information.
Said Hart, “We come to the gym from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. We are usually with them for the majority of the time.” They can’t travel to many places. We go to their dinners. We spend between 10-12 hours per day with them. They don’t need to see coaches the rest of the time. We know their movements and every day what they are doing.
There will be NBA team presidents and general managers at every game during this weeks showcase in Las Vegas. Hart will make it a point to draft four young players as well as one veteran, to help raise their draft stock.
With their eyes on both the NBA prize and the learning environment, it is easy to see why Ignite young people have no regrets.
Daniels stated, “I love this experience.” Each game is better. I am learning a lot about myself and my coaches. Every game Im seeing development
I’m very grateful for this opportunity. If I had the chance to choose again, this would be my choice.
Foster: I took up the G League because it was something I felt I needed to do better than everyone else.
Marc J. Spears is The Undefeated’s senior NBA reporter. He used to be able dunk on you. But he hasn’t been able in years, and his knees still hurt.