Kentucky's John Calipari: Those skipping college for G League should have education guaranteed

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari said Tuesday he thinks prospects should be able to go to college after playing in the G League, and also believes players selected in the second round of the NBA draft should be able to return to college.

Calipari has maintained that players should be able to skip college for the NBA, but the Kentucky head coach is concerned too many high school student-athletes will be persuaded to go straight to the NBA or the G League.

And, borrowing from minor league baseball, he has a bold idea on how to fix the potential issue.

"I've got the solution," Calipari told ESPN on Tuesday. "The NBA, you want these kids in the G League, you want to do all this? Everyone that goes in the G League is guaranteed eight semesters of college education if you don't make it. You give them a signing bonus, you pay them. And then if they don't make it after two years, the NBA pays to have them on my campus. They have to sit out their first year, to prove they really want to be in college. So you can come to college, the NBA is gonna pay for it, for eight semesters. You come back, sit out a year to prove you really want to be in college, then you start playing and your clock starts."

Calipari added that if a player does go to college after fading out of the G League, he must stay at least two years. Along with the required sit-out year, each player would have a minimum of six semesters in college before being able to enter the NBA draft.

In August, the NCAA adopted a new rule that allows undrafted players who attend the NBA combine and request an Undergraduate Advisory Committee evaluation to return to college.

Calipari thinks that protection should apply to players drafted in the second round, too.

"If a kid is picked in the second round, he doesn't have to go. He can go back to college," he said. "Everybody is telling him he's a first-round pick, and you slip to the second round, 'Nah, I'm going back.' If you're gonna let kids stay in the draft and then say they're coming back a week later after they don't get drafted, why not put it on the second round? Because the kids that went in the second round are pissed. They all were told they were gonna go in the first. Do we care about the kids or is this about the NBA or is this about college?"

Along with the rule regarding undrafted players, the NCAA adopted a number of rules recommended by a committee led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. College players and elite high school players -- the latter being determined by USA Basketball -- are also allowed to be represented by agents. High school players can be represented beginning July 1 before their senior year in high school, pending the end to the one-and-done rule.

Calipari thinks the rule changes will dissuade more prospects from going to college -- and fears that the floodgates could open and we will see 100-200 players per year skipping college for the G League.

"If they're trying to encourage them to go to the G League, I think it's wrong," Calipari said. "Instead of encouraging academic success and learning and a life of learning, just go chase basketball. They can't do that at 14, 15, 16 years old.

"More than half the G League is going to be high school kids that are trying to make it. I hope I'm wrong. I absolutely hope I'm wrong."

He said he continues to get feedback that the NCAA doesn't mind if large numbers of high school basketball players don't ever attend college.

"They're going to look back at this time in basketball, and this is a pivotal point of where this thing goes. This time we're sitting in right now. And I want to make sure I'm on the right side of history," Calipari said. "What's been going on right now, you have people that basically are saying, 'They don't belong on this college campus.' Who doesn't belong on a college campus? Why don't they belong? 'Well, they don't want to be in school.' I didn't want to be in school! Why are you saying that? Is that that ivory tower thing, where you're looking down and seeing how people are dressed and how they walk and saying they don't belong on a college campus? Drives me nuts."

While Calipari acknowledged that there are three or four kids every class capable of skipping college for the NBA, he fears dozens more kids will also try, and "they will be roadkill." Moreover, because they were sold on skipping college from early on in high school, their academics will be deemed secondary.

"My thing is, if you encourage high school sophomores or juniors not to worry about academics, you won't be on a college campus anyway, you don't belong on a college campus. They're told that stuff," Calipari said. "The minute there's pushback, 'Ah, I'm going to the NBA anyway.'"

As a result, prospects who flame out of the G League after a couple of years will be left in a difficult situation -- leading back to Calipari's original suggestion of allowing them to go back to college. If Calipari is right and 100-plus prospects skip college for the G League every year, he believes more than 93 percent will be out of the league within two years.

"The 93 percent that don't make it," Calipari said. "Give me the demographic of that group. We really want to do that to those kids? I'm not. I'm standing on a mountaintop saying no."

"What you're doing is wrong and I'm on the other side," he later added. "And 10 years from now, if you do this and all these kids are ruined and all their families that had a chance at a better life, maybe not through sports but through education, why would we not use sports to encourage kids to be more educated? Because of eight kids, you're gonna throw out everything? Eliminate the summer. What's happened with this FBI probe, we're changing evaluation periods? Don't tell me we're gonna put them all in a setting and we have three days to figure out who's who. You know who you don't care about by doing that? The kids. You're trying to make this look like you're doing something. Stop."