Making the jump

“Someday, I’d make sure my mom would never have to work again.”

Those words were the most poignant out of Terrance Ferguson’s well written essay on The Player’s Tribune, a blog site dedicated to professional athletes and coaches.

The 18-year-old basketball star from Oklahoma was a five star recruit according to various notable scouting sites, and was on his way to play at the University of Arizona before he made the jump. The jump to go from high school to playing professional basketball overseas in Australia. 

Many look down on athletes for not finishing college, so one can only imagine the criticism Ferguson has taken for skipping college altogether. Ferguson is likely to play a lone season professionally overseas, then transfer to the NBA. Questions still loom--why not go to college?

What if he gets injured? Why not take advantage of a free education? What is a young kid like that going to do with all that money? Those are all viable questions if you don’t take into account the actual person.

Ferguson could just as easily get injured in college, so the commonly asked question about getting injured is ineffective. As far as the free education goes, college will always be an option for him if he ever chooses to return. 

Recent NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was a notable athlete who left school to pursue NBA dreams, then returned to achieve not only his bachelor’s, but his doctorate in Human Resource Development from Barry University. 

But the biggest argument is the financial responsibility. No one wants to see another kid get millions of dollars and then go broke, aka the parable of Allen Iverson. 

High-level recruits often weigh their options and speak to many professionals about their chances or likelihood of playing in professional basketball. It is not just a random guess, as most people believe. Along with that comes financial advising. The Rookie Transition Program helps NBA first year players adjust to the celebrity life. 

“The league-wide initiative is built to prevent catastrophe and mishandling of finances among younger players,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Every athlete’s situation is different when it comes to the motivation for making the jump to the pros. Take Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore for example. 

Many people are slow to listen and quick to judge when an athlete chooses to leave school early. As a freshman at Kansas, one would likely assume that Mclemore was highly recruited and sought after his entire life. Few would ever assume that he came from a poverty-stricken upbringing, which saw as many as 10 relatives living in one room. 

Behind the flashy appeal of being a basketball star on television, many believe these athletes are overpaid superstars who have been pampered their entire life. In the case of Ferguson, a longing to finally be able to take care of his mother lead the decision.

According to the NBL, a first year non-local player for the Adelaide 36ers can sign a contract for between $150,000 to $200,000. 

The contract finances are tax free because of playing basketball overseas. Also, Ferguson is rumored to sign a hefty endorsement deal with Under Armor. 

None of these opportunities would have been awarded to him had he chose to play for Arizona, under the restrictions of maintaining amateurism while in college. 

Also, college athletes have an NCAA limited amount of practice time, on top of keeping up with school work. So when Ferguson arrives in Australia, all he will have to worry about is basketball.

“I mean, think about it, I’m going to be a professional basketball player,” Ferguson said. “I get to take care of my family. That’s every kid’s dream.”