Strickland to manage G League pro path program

NBA

The NBA has hired Rod Strickland as program manager for its G League professional path program.

Strickland, a 17-year NBA veteran and former college assistant, will evaluate elite prospects, as well as educate and mentor them on the new initiative that offers select high school prospects the option to bypass NCAA basketball and accept a $125,000 salary for a five-month G League season.

Strickland will partner with Allison Feaster, a former WNBA player and Harvard graduate who will oversee an NBA-centric group that will identify the high-level players eligible for the pro path initiative.

Feaster also will oversee the broader implementation of the program.

Strickland will be on the road immediately, evaluating top talent and delivering the details on the pro path program to families, players and coaches. The NBA will bring its first class of high school stars into the G League for the 2019-20 season.

Feaster expects a “handful” of players to be part of the initial group in the professional path. Feaster and Strickland emphasized that the program will be judicious in choosing those eligible for the pro path opportunity.

Every graduating high school player is already allowed to make himself eligible for the G League draft, but non-elite prospects would come into the minor league on a lower, traditional salary — if they made a roster.

“First and foremost, we want to make it clear that they won’t be searching out any player already committed to school,” Feaster told ESPN. “We will focus on players who are undecided. As Rod moves into the market, he’ll have interactions with organizations and potential parents. Initially, it’ll be those who reach out to us and want more information on the professional path.”

The NBA is limiting eligibility for the professional path program to prep players who would be considered consensus candidates for the draft if there were no early entry rule to prohibit them. Feaster will work with a group that includes Strickland and the NBA’s basketball operations and player development staffs to evaluate the potential players.

“It will be elite prospects with a readiness for a professional league,” Feaster told ESPN. “We want to target players who would not be going to a university if it weren’t for the NBA eligibility rule. That’s more or less what’s going to dictate this.”

Strickland, 52, was a first-round pick in the 1988 NBA draft and played until the 2004-05 season; he earned second-team all-league honors for Washington in 1997-98. His coaching career included stops at Kentucky and South Florida. He’s well-regarded in the grassroots basketball community.

“We will have former players and former G League players to guide [the pro path players],” Strickland told ESPN. “We want to help them in everyday life, like balancing a checkbook, understanding what’s out there — and how not to get caught up in the wrong things. Just like with a college kid, we will put in place a structure to help guide them through it all.

“I’ve enjoyed a lot of different kinds of experiences in basketball, enjoyed the mentorship part in college and I’m looking forward to the evaluation and helping of young men attain their goals on and off the court.”

Unresolved with the program remains the allocation of players to teams. The NBA is considering several factors in deciding how the professional path players will be assigned to G League franchises, including specific teams’ interest in taking on these players as well as and regional geography, league sources said.

For example, an NBA team has the rights to a player it drafts into the G League, or sends down from its NBA roster. These professional path players won’t enter the NBA draft until the following year, so organizations that are tasked with a season of G League development for a pro path player may never get the chance to bring them onto their NBA roster.

Still, there are teams that see value in the ability to get a closer inspection of a top prospect, or value the player additionally as a project to grow and develop with their own G League coaching staffs.

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