Former Lottery Pick Offers Advice To Elite Basketball Prospects

Jonathan Bender, the fifth overall pick in 1999, offered words of wisdom to prospects considering the preps-to-pros jump

JRSportBrief
May 01, 2020 - 10:20 am
Zion Williamson

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Several elite high school basketball prospects have elected to skip college and play in the G League. Jonathan Bender, the fifth overall pick in 1999, knows what it’s like to go directly from high school to the pros – and the biggest adjustment, believe it or not, takes place off the court.

“These guys have never had a job before,” Bender told JR SportBrief. “Going into a situation where now it’s all business and understanding that and to have your own work ethic and learning how to train and learning how to be a pro, I think that’s going to be a big, big, big deal. But outside of playing, it’s more so dealing with the money aspect of it and understanding who you’re dealing with and understanding that you don’t have to take care of all these people. It’s more off-the-court things that jeopardize us African-Americans especially coming from nothing and getting thrown into that big situation of having that type of money and revenue coming in. 

“I think it’s 80 percent from that side,” Bender continued. “Guys get adjusted on the court fairly quickly definitely coming from areas that we come from because we already play against those type of grown men. So we can get adjusted from that standpoint, but the other standpoint seems like where we fall short a lot of times.”

Bender offered advice to prospects considering the preps-to-pros jump.

“Don’t get sucked in,” he said. “I think it’s very, very temporary. You just want to have a good grip, a good hold, of what you’re doing. At the end of the day, you’re going to go into the game, all of that is going to be good. You’re going to have people singing your praises, you’re going to play well and that’s all good. But understand what you want out of life, and if you have any type of entrepreneur spirit, know how to take one dollar and make two. It’s that simple. If you can do that, I think that you can really, really grow from that standpoint after you finish playing. Don’t feel like you have to take care of your whole family. Everybody’s human; you’re not God. Bad things happen when you try to play God, so don’t even attempt.”