Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Former Mad Ants player Ron Howard, left, speaks with Rod Strickland, the G League's point man for select players to join the league out of high school.
Friday, December 07, 2018 1:00 am
G League official touting program
Ex-player Strickland on tour of teams
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Rod Strickland was seated courtside Saturday at Memorial Coliseum – this was stop No. 4 on his tour of the G League – as he becomes a pivotal person in the infrastructure of the NBA and its minor league.
For those who long for change to college basketball, for the one-and-done era to go by the wayside, Strickland's success or failure could have far reaching implications.
“I just want to get to know the (G League) environment in general,” Strickland said before a Mad Ants game. “Being a part of it and working for the G League, I want to see the teams, the players and the environments, and at some point in time I'll be educating the players – high school players and their families – and I want to be well-rounded and get a feel for the G League.”
Strickland, an NBA player from 1988 to 2005, was hired in November as program manager for the new G League professional path program, which will allow select players coming from high school to bypass college basketball and play in the G League for $125,000 before they are eligible for the NBA draft.
He will partner with Allison Feaster, a former WNBA player, who will oversee the group that identifies appropriate players for this new program.
Strickland, 52, whose career began with the New York Knicks and ended with the Houston Rockets, spent three years as an assistant coach at South Florida.
He said the program, which begins next season, will have many positives for young players, beyond just being able to get a salary – including mentorship in life skills and academic tutelage.
Perhaps it's not surprising that for much of the Mad Ants' game, Strickland was seated next to Ron Howard, regarded as the franchise's all-time greatest player for his contributions on and off the court. The Mad Ants play host to Long Island at 7 p.m. today at the Coliseum.
“The positives are professional basketball. You are getting to develop yourself on a daily basis against pro competition, guys who have touched professional courts before. And you're getting to further your education,” Strickland said. “And also you get the mentorship of the player development. There's a lot out there, there's a lot to know about being a professional player – the work ethic, life skills, as well as basketball, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that.”
There will be no maximum age for a player to be eligible for a select contract, but they won't be available for players who have gone through an NBA draft. And it remains to be seen how they will fare against players who could be into their 30s.
“I think it's basketball.” Strickland said. “If you're a young player, and you're coming in to a professional environment, it's an adjustment. But it's basketball. I think players tend to figure it out as it goes along and we're here to help them with that transition. But I think it's basketball.”
With G League teams being the minor-league affiliates of NBA teams – the Mad Ants are owned and operated by the Indiana Pacers – players on select contracts could essentially go through a seasonlong draft combine.
“I think it's going to take a special player,” Strickland said. “You're going to be looking for the player who's ready mentally and physically to do this because you're going to become a professional. So when you take on that task, it's going to take a lot of commitment and it's going to take a lot of hard work. And we're looking forward to putting them in positions to succeed.”