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Jay Wright opens up on Quinerly recruitment, new NBA G-League alternative, one-and-dones

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Jelly JQ is here to play, a ‘three-or-go’ suggestion, and the state of college basketball.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Michigan vs Villanova Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s any fear, any doubt at all surrounding Jahvon Quinerly’s eligibility, or worries of potential punishment in the future--Villanova head coach Jay Wright squashed it all.

Quinerly, the top-ranked recruit in the Wildcats’ highest-rated incoming class since 2009, was a five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American coming out of Hudson Catholic (N.J.). Known as one of the founders of “Jelly Fam,” a movement known for its flashy layups on the court and high social media following, Quinerly is next in line to be one of Villanova’s great point guards. Wearing No. 1 like Kyle Lowry, Scottie Reynolds, and Jalen Brunson, Quinerly brings his own brand of swagger to the court. He has smooth handles, excellent court vision, and the ability to score at all three levels.

In August 2017, Quinerly had narrowed his schools down to Villanova and Arizona, before picking the latter. A few months later, last October, his name surfaced amidst a groundbreaking FBI investigation that shook up college basketball. While he wasn’t identified by name in the official report, documents stated that Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson--one of four coaches arrested from the probe--allegedly gave a $15,000 bribe to Player-5, who “verbally committed to attending” Arizona “on or about August 9, 2017.”

He promptly de-committed from Arizona and Villanova resurfaced into the picture.

”We hired outside attorneys, and Jahvon, he was wrongly implicated but that doesn’t matter because it’s out there,” Wright said at Big East Media Day. “He knew it. When he contacted us saying he wanted to come to Villanova, we said ‘you understand, we have to do a full investigation before we even think about it.’ We know what’s out there. We hired outside attorneys, they looked at the entire thing before we even started talking to him.”

Wright continued: “To be honest with you, I know when [the report] came out everyone thought he was [guilty]. I’m not sure of that. I know what our people--our outside attorneys--found there was no reason to think in anyway that they took any money or that they would be implicated in any way from the trial...What we found is that it is a false allegation, but it is out there. Because it is out there, Villanova is responsible for whatever comes from that down the line, that’s why we had to investigate.”

After doing its due diligence, Villanova and Quinerly came together a few months later, with Quinerly putting pen to paper on Feb. 14, 2018. The Wildcats added one more valuable piece to their recruiting class and got the player they had been closely watching since his freshman year of high school. While any worries and uneasiness subsided with the investigation of Villanova’s outside attorneys, Wright does feel a bit concerned with the college basketball landscape and the aftermath of the FBI report that has now been out for a year.

”There’s always concern, there’s concern about everything going on in that trial,” Wright said. “If anyone says in college basketball they’re not concerned--it’s concerning for all of us. In Jahvon’s case, we feel we did our due diligence knowing the situation is out there. If you know it’s out there and you take him, you’re responsible for whatever happens. We feel that we investigated it deeply enough that whatever comes out--he’s going to be safe. That’s what we had to do. We couldn’t say we didn’t know. We had to look into it.”

He later added, “I was on a conference call with his mother and father, literally 30 minutes before they made the announcement [in August, when Quinerly committed to Arizona]. It was that close. I remember thinking that time he’s either going away or staying home. He was picking to play for a great coach that plays similar to us and a great school. He’s a kid, he had to make a tough decision. If he were to blow us out early in the recruiting process, that’s one thing, but it came down 30 minutes before he almost still picked Villanova. His mom and dad still wanted him to come to Villanova, that’s why I talked to them and not him. It was a unique case. There was a part about him that still wanted to come to Villanova. We recruited him since ninth grade, so we knew him very well.”

Quinerly was just one of the dozens of players tied with the FBI’s investigations. Since the preliminary report, more big names with links to college basketball, brands, and basketball players past and present were exposed and brought out to the light. This ongoing case has sparked lots of discussion questioning who’s innocent, who’s not, and who’s next. However, it all seems to go back to the student-athlete payment talk or if it is time to finally abolish the one-and-done rule.

Wright has previously stated his opinions before, and wasn’t shy to share them again.

”If a guy wants to go to college, he goes there for three years,” Wright said. “If a guy doesn’t want to go to college and he’s good enough, he should be able to go to the NBA, go to the G-League and get paid fair market value. Not just $25,000, because you’re 18 years old. If you’re good enough, you should get paid, but I really commend the NBA. I think they made a great move. I think it can possibly, possibly--I want this to go on the record--I want them to eliminate one and done. I want them to be able to go out of high school and if they go to college, stay for three years, but this could possibly eliminate the need for the elimination of the one and done if it works well.”

He’s a fan of the new NBA G-League alternative that was drawn up earlier this month. It will be offering select elite high school prospects the option to bypass college and go directly to play in the G-League for $125,000, rather than spending a one-and-done year at a college. It is a groundbreaking first step, while the one-and-done rule chatter continues. Previous NBA commissioner David Stern was adamant on keeping an age limit and even suggested the age minimum be 20, before compromising with the players’ union to make it 19 instead. Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver has gone on the record in terms of exploring the rule and the limitation and even suggested that the one-and-done rule will be gone in the near future.

”I think that the beauty of college basketball--what drives TV ratings, what drives fans--is the authenticity of student-athletes competing at a high level athletically,” Wright said. “I think we weren’t fair to the kids that didn’t to do that because you couldn’t get paid. I love what the NBA has done. If you want to get paid now, you have a great option to go to the G-League. You can take the $125,000 the pro pass, but now that those guys are doing it, some guys can take that $25-30 thousand too because now they’re being evaluated for that next draft. I think you can inspire the other kids that don’t want to go to college.”

Is $125,000 enough?

”I do [think so], because you can endorsement deals,” he said. “You can sign with an agent, an agent can lend you money. You can get all kinds of endorsement deals. A lot of those endorsement deals are based on the projection of your star status. They might take a chance on giving a little bit of money, sign him for next year. At least he’s going to make money. Some really good players can make money for that first year.”

Case-and-point in Darius Bazley, a high school standout at Princeton High (Ohio) who was originally committed to Syracuse. He decided to bow out of his commitment and take his talents to the G-League. He recently inked a deal with New Balance that can potentially be worth as high as $14 million, but in this first year he will be completing a “$1 million internship” while competing. College coaches have sounded off, guys like Coach K and Bazley’s would-be coach, Jim Boeheim, who wasn’t happy with the Bazley news and has stated he doesn’t think student-athletes should ever be paid.

”It’s gotta be authentic,” Wright said in response to Boeheim’s opinion. “Then we’re not student-athletes. Once you get paid, get endorsements or whatever, you’re a professional. Which is fine, but you would lose what college athletics is all about. I would argue that ratings are driven by rivalries, traditions, student-athletes, that’s what people like. Not star power in college basketball. Star power is the NBA. We’ll learn now from these stars playing in G-League if those ratings go up and college basketball goes down, but I don’t think we will.”

For now, it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing.