Raleigh basketball star passing on college game for pioneering pro program

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- One of the nation's top basketball recruits, 6-foot-10 power forward Isaiah Todd, is forgoing college offers to become a pioneer for the NBA's new professional pathway program.

"I feel like, you know, being in the NBA's backyard, "I'll be able to learn the terminology, and I'll be able to, you know, understand the NBA game," Todd said. "I feel like this is just better for me, being in the NBA backyard to prepare myself for the NBA."

Todd averaged 23 points per game, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks and 4 assists during his senior season at Word of God Christian Acadamy. He was set to go to Michigan but will join top-ranked recruit Jalen Green in Los Angeles for the G League's developmental program.

"The hardest part of it all was just thinking about the Michigan fans," said Todd. "I was really excited to go play for Juwan (Howard) and all, but when, when they called me and they were telling me more about the program that they're putting together, it was kind of like, you know, I want to be a pioneer; I want to be the first guy to do this, and I want to better my game to prepare for the NBA."

Todd is now 18. His mother, Marlene Venable, said people have been telling her that her son was a star since he was as young as 7 years old.

"It was his dream since a kid," she said. "That's what we've been on his journey. That's the whole goal was to make it to the NBA. So, when the G League presented the things that they, you know, that they had to offer as far as his development, it was almost like a no-brainer. It's almost like OK, 'you want to go to the NBA? Here is the NBA reaching out to you to come play.'"

Players in the program will receive a salary of up to $500,000 and play about 10 or 12 games against G League teams while also being able to take online classes at Arizona State University.

"I feel like this is the step before the big step," Todd said. "I think this is so exciting. I'll be right there, learning from directly from pros, directly from NBA coaches and trainers and veterans, and I feel like, you know, I'm just excited to do that."

It's an excitement tempered by a lot of expectations.

"I mean, having an elite kid is a blessing, but there's a lot of stuff comes with it," Venable said. "I'm excited, a little nervous too, you know. He's so young. Hopefully, he can take all the pressure and everything that comes with it."

The program is part of an effort to end the one-and-done rule and allow players to go directly from high school to the NBA.

"Ever since I picked up a ball you know the dream has been doing this for the rest of my life," Todd said. "Just being that close to the NBA that's the most exciting part about it. Being that close and just getting ready for that big step."

No matter what, his mother's pride in her talented son is evident.

"I am very proud of him not just for basketball, but he's a good kid," Venable said. "He has good grades. He does good."
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