GIF: YouTube

Darius Bazley, high school senior and top prospect for the 2019 NBA Draft, has retracted a commitment to Syracuse and intends to enter the D-League this fall, possibly carving a new path to the NBA, as Yahoo’s Shams Charania reports. This is cool and basically without precedent!

A handful of NBA-quality players and also Emmanuel Mudiay have skipped college to play abroad and collect a fat paycheck, but Bazley is the first to opt for this particular path through the developmental league. Bazley will turn 18 in June, making him eligible to sign a contract with a D-League team come September. Discussing his unusual decision with Yahoo! Sports, the Cincinnati native came across as intensely deliberate and motivated:

This all relies and falls back on me, and that’s another reason why I decided on this ... There’s no room for error here. I can’t be screwing around. I want just that. I want this challenge and I know that I’m going to overcome it. As far as maturity-wise, I believe I am as mature as they come, if not more mature, than guys that are in the G League and some guys in the NBA. There’s no screwing around.

I’m not a party person. I literally hang out with friends at home or I’m in the gym. Guys who I surround myself with are all basketball players. We all have the same goals in mind: going to the NBA, going to college. I’m hanging with people with the same mindsets, same goals as me, so that way there are no slip-ups. I try to be as self-disciplined as possible.

I go back to how I was raised by my mom. My high school coach and my mom have helped me realize the big picture, and that is getting to the NBA. If I want to do so, there has to be a level of professionalism that I have to maintain and have to show. I’ve developed that over the years. I’m not saying that I’m perfect and I’m LeBron James, but I’m not the typical 17-year-old high school kid who wants to trip out with his friend. I know what I want in my life, and with this route I’m going to get it.

Bazley notched 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists last night as a McDonald’s All-American. A versatile 6-foot-9 forward, Bazley looks equally at ease yamming on hapless teen defenders, rampaging down the court in transition, and treating his teammates to neat little interior passes.

Bazley’s experiment will be a valuable case in determining whether the D-League can be a viable springboard for the NBA lottery, whether a flood of talent can ramp up investment and interest in the developmental league’s wobbly infrastructure, and whether any of this poses a meaningful threat to the one-and-done industrial complex.