NBL: The Terrance Ferguson Experiment
Earlier this month, the Adelaide 36ers pulled off one of the biggest signings of an action packed NBL off-season when they announced the addition of 5-star American recruit Terrance Ferguson.
Ferguson, a 6'7" shooting guard from Dallas, Texas, revoked his commitment to Division I college basketball powerhouse, the University of Arizona, to play for Adelaide in the upcoming 2016/17 NBL season.
"[Adelaide] really liked how I played," Ferguson revealed in a statement posted on The Players' Tribune. "They started talking about how they could develop me even further. That’s what really got my attention."
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ferguson moved to Dallas when he was 11 and played his freshman year of high school at Prime Prep Academy. There, he led the team to a 38-2 record and won the 2013 NACA Division I tournament championship, collecting the tournament MVP award in the process.
Due to mishandling of funds, Prime Prep Academy closed its doors midway through Ferguson's junior year, paving the way for him to attend Advanced Preparatory International. During his senior year in 2015, Ferguson averaged 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists, garnering him McDonald's All-American honours.
Despite having such a successful high school career, Ferguson says his greatest moment in basketball came when he won the gold medal in a hard fought final at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in 2015.
"It was a tough game," Ferguson told NBAdraft.net.
"We thought we were going to lose."
Ferguson tallied eight points and three assists in a 79-71 overtime win against Croatia in the final, taking his personal gold medal tally to three; a FIBA Americas U/16 Championship and FIBA U/17 World Championship already in tow.
With such a fruitful junior career, it was a given that the biggest and most powerful college basketball programs would come calling for Ferguson's services when college recruiting season kicked into gear.
Legendary Louisville head coach, Rick Pitino recruited Ferguson heavily. Kansas, Baylor, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Alabama all tried luring Ferguson to their respective programs. The latter two, Arizona and Alabama, both had commitments at different points in time.
The Adelaide 36ers however, trumped them all.
"At first, I was going to turn them (Adelaide) down," recounts Ferguson on the The Players' Tribune.
"That offer stuck in my head, though. First it was just a small thought in the back of my head, then I couldn’t think about anything else."
Ferguson will pair with fellow American import Jerome Randle in the back court for Adelaide this upcoming NBL season. The tandem could be a nightmare to contain for other teams, with athleticism being arguably Terrance Ferguson's greatest on-court asset.
Ferguson's NBA Draft Express scouting report describes him as a potential 3-and-D type wing player at the professional level, highlighting his size, on ball defense, smooth shot mechanics and one-dribble pull up as major strengths. The report also identifies his lack of play-making ability and streaky shooting as potential weaknesses.
Among the major perks of going pro straight out of high school is not having to dedicate time and energy to classes. Instead, Ferguson will spend more time in the gym working on his body, on the practice court improving on his deficiencies, and picking the brains of professional players and coaches alike.
Combine those advantages with the money earned playing, the potential for endorsement deals, and working abroad for a year, it becomes hard to imagine why more top high school recruits don't take the same path to the NBA.
Ferguson's story parallels that of current NBA point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Selected seventh overall in the 2015 NBA draft, Mudiay withdrew his commitment to play at Southern Methodist University (SMU) to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association.
When asked if playing overseas gave him a leg up over other draftees, Mudiay said yes.
"I was playing against 30-year old men that are trying to feed their family," Mudiay told Scout.
"In college, they are trying to get an education and try to get a job after that. I was put in a job position."
Mudiay also says he would do it again if given the chance to go back.
"Honestly it challenged me as a basketball player. I’m not saying I’m better than everybody in college, but I felt like it gave me a better challenge than college would have given me," Mudiay reflected.
Emmanuel Mudiay is a glowing example of how advantageous playing overseas can be for potential NBA talent. The stock of international prospects has never been higher in the NBA, with a record 28 foreign players selected in the 2016 NBA draft. An astonishing 15 were selected in the first round alone.
If more top American prospects look towards the path Mudiay and Ferguson have taken, the NBL is in a hearty position to facilitate these players in the future. As Mudiay found, China has a language barrier that can offer up some difficulties. And while Europe may offer larger contracts, the allure of playing in Australia during the summer months combined with the cushioning of a similar culture to that of the United States may make Australia the number one destination for top American talents in the future.
While tomorrow's NBL may be littered with an abundance of top American high school phenoms and future NBA stars, today it has just one. The high-flying, ultra talented Terrance Ferguson.
"I’m ready. I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready," Ferguson says.
"I’m already getting chills imagining coming through that tunnel, wearing that jersey, hearing the crowd get excited."
"I can’t wait to show out."