Coming off a stellar sophomore season (including a dominating performance over a certain undefeated team with a top-10 pick on their roster), Eric Mika was faced with a difficult choice: stay at BYU or enter the NBA draft. Mika declared for the draft, initially to test the water and get a feel for what NBA teams thought of him and how he needed to develop. After receiving that feedback, he decided to gamble on his chances of playing professionally and stayed in the draft. Unfortunately, every NBA team passed.
That leaves Mika with two likely options: the NBA G-League or going to a foreign league. Let’s assume Mika knew that he wasn’t going to get drafted Thursday night, leaving him with the option of staying at BYU or playing in a second-tier league. I firmly believe he made the right decision. I believe this because I, as well as many other recent graduates, faced a similar situation.
>>> UPDATE: Mika commits to Miami Heat for summer league
Approaching graduation, students are forced to choose to choose between continuing their education in graduate school or entering the workforce. I am an engineer by trade and the job I accepted had a base salary for a bachelor’s degree, with four guaranteed annual raises. Someone graduating with a master’s degree (two additional years of schooling) would get hired in at the same salary as someone with a bachelor’s degree and two years of work experience. I choose to start working immediately. Instead of staying in college for two additional years and make the same salary, I chose to start making money.
That is the lens through which I see and understand Mika’s decision. He was a borderline second round pick at best; he was destined for the G-League or overseas. His best chance at a lasting professional career was through leaving early and (in my opinion) his best choice is to make as much money as he can. Staying at BYU and playing for free is a bad choice. Even if you count the cost of education at BYU as “payment,” playing for a paycheck is a much better option since he will end up making more money than college costs.
For reference: G-League salaries range between about $20,000-$30,000 with chances at 10 day NBA contracts worth up to $60,000 per 10 day stint. European leagues usually offer starting contracts between $60,000 and $100,000 per year. Choosing to finish his career at BYU would cost Mika somewhere between $40,000 and $200,000.
Also consider this year’s draft class. Mika was born in January 1995. A total of 3 players in this year’s draft are older than him. Assume he stayed one more year and then declared. If drafted, he would easily be the oldest player taken. If he was a senior this year, he would be a year and a half older than any player taken in the draft.
We see this time and time again with BYU athletes. Professional teams don’t like taking 24 or 25 year olds when there are 18-20 year olds with similar skill sets. If Mika wants to have a chance at playing his way into the NBA, the best option, both financially and for actual odds of making a roster, was to stay in the draft and play his way onto a team.
Knowing that, put yourself in his shoes for a moment. If you had to choose between taking your best shot at your dream job while making money, or missing out on your dream job for no money, which would you choose? For Eric Mika, that answer was to leave BYU now.