Potential 2019 first-rounder Darius Bazley figures to be draft-eligible next spring, but he’s not spending the 2018/19 season in college or playing in a professional league. As Marc Stein of The New York Times reports, Bazley has secured a three-month internship with New Balance as part of a shoe and endorsement deal with the company.
According to Stein and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), Bazley’s agreement with New Balance will pay him a guaranteed $1MM, and can be worth up to $14MM if he reaches various performance incentives after going pro.
Bazley, who initially planned to play with Syracuse in 2018/19, decommitted from the college program in March and announced his intentions to spend a season in the G League. However, he changed course in August on that plan too, deciding not to play in the NBAGL after all. Instead, he’ll work for New Balance from January to March, spending time in marketing, footwear and apparel design, and other departments while he continues to train and stay in shape in advance of next June’s draft.
“There will be some things he misses out on, but I’m not worried at all — not with the talent and skill set he has,” agent Rich Paul told Stein. “No matter what we do this year, he still has to be developed in the NBA. You see it even with the highest draft picks — it’s not like you come into the league as a rookie and set the league on fire.”
Paul, who suggests that there would have been “no upside” to Bazley playing in the G League, remains optimistic about his client’s draft stock, as does Bazley himself. In ESPN’s latest 2019 mock draft, the young forward is projected to be the No. 26 overall pick, but he’s no lock to be a first-round selection after spending a year off the court, as Stein observes. Bazley feels comfortable taking that chance.
“This is my risk,” Bazley said. “I’m going to go ahead and do it this way, and I’m still going to succeed, even when others say I won’t. This will also be fun. It’s not like I’m going to be doing something I don’t want to do.”