Kell basketball star Henderson signs with G League, bypasses college

Scoot Henderson, 17, who has reclassified to graduate high school a year early and will bypass college to play professional basketball with the G League Ignite, at Next Play 360, a gym his family opened in Marietta, Ga., May 19, 2021. He would become the first player to spend two years with the team, which is designed to offer elite prospects an alternative to playing in college or overseas before becoming eligible for the NBA draft. (Lynsey Weatherspoon/The New York Times)
Scoot Henderson, 17, who has reclassified to graduate high school a year early and will bypass college to play professional basketball with the G League Ignite, at Next Play 360, a gym his family opened in Marietta, Ga., May 19, 2021. He would become the first player to spend two years with the team, which is designed to offer elite prospects an alternative to playing in college or overseas before becoming eligible for the NBA draft. (Lynsey Weatherspoon/The New York Times)

Scoot Henderson, the junior point guard who led Kell High to the Class 6A championship game in March, is bypassing his senior season and college basketball to become the youngest player in the NBA’s G League after announcing Friday a two-year deal worth a reported $1 million.

His goal is to be a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft.

“My main goal my whole entire life has been to get to the NBA and be a household name,” Henderson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “This puts me one step away, and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t give up.”

Henderson was Georgia’s consensus No. 1 prospect among juniors and the No. 12 player nationally, according to 247Sports. He averaged 24.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season and was the AJC’s Class 6A player of the year.

Henderson’s college finalists were Auburn and Georgia, among others, but instead, he’ll be one of the youngest professional basketball players in U.S. history. The surprise decision demonstrates a major shift in how the nation’s elite high school basketball players are beginning to view college basketball and their path to the NBA.

“Hopefully I’ll be a trailblazer before their eyes, but I can’t speak for everybody,” Henderson said. “It was just the best decision for me. Hopefully they’ll pick their best decision.”

The G League is the developmental league of the NBA, essentially its minor leagues. The league traditionally has been training ground for NBA free agents or borderline NBA roster players assigned to the league by NBA teams.

What makes Henderson unique in the G League is his age. He turned 17 in February, meaning he’ll be the youngest player and need two years before the NBA can sign him.

The G League became an alternative to college basketball last year when the nation’s top recruit at the time, Jalen Green, signed with a new team called the Ignite for $500,000. The Ignite, coached by former NBA coach Brian Shaw, will be Henderson’s team and feature several players bypassing college basketball.

Three other high school stars, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix and Jonathan Kuminga, joined Green last year with the Ignite. Henderson and Jaden Hardy, a five-star guard from Henderson, Nev., are the latest to sign up.

What emboldened Henderson to take the leap wasn’t so much those guys, despite Green’s status as a likely top-five overall pick in the next NBA draft. Rather, it was Georgia’s recent history of high NBA picks, most with whom Henderson sometimes trains.

They include Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Collin Sexton and Isaac Okoro of the Cavaliers and Jared Harper of the Knicks, all recent Cobb County products, as is Henderson. Another is Auburn’s Sharife Cooper, a likely first-round pick this year. Cooper and Okoro played at McEachern, Sexton and Harper at Pebblebrook and Brown at Wheeler.

“Those guys are from my city,” Henderson said. “Watching those guys gives me faith that I can do it, too. With my work ethic and team I’ll have around me (in the G League), it’s almost inevitable for that to happen.”

To be draft-eligible, a player must be one season removed from high school and at least 19 years old. Henderson will complete the first criterion in a year. Henderson will graduate early from Kell, reclassifying as a 2021 prospect. That’s also how Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit Prep did it in 2019. He reclassified, graduated early and played a season at Georgia. But Henderson won’t turn 19 until 2023, so he’ll need two years in the G League.

Henderson will report to the Ignite in August, and the season begins in the fall. It’s far from home – the Ignite is based in Walnut Creek, a town in northern California. But Henderson is eager to head west.

“I’m just blessed that the G League had this organization,” Henderson said of the Ignite. “From the moment I found out about it, it just looked like it was the best path for me.”

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