I actually think trae young is a good example. He is clearly extremely marketable as a college player but has questionable professional potential based on size. Yes, he chose a school in a power 5 conference but not a blue blood. Had he chosen KU he would have been far less valuable due to playing time, style of play, and in house competition (Graham).
With the opportunity to earn real money off his image which was sold all over college basketball all season long, he very likely could have chosen to stay another year or even all 4.
And it would have to be quiet the argument to convince me that Young on almost any team wouldn’t be somewhat marketable. Really the blue bloods are the only place he wouldn’t be because he might not be the star.
Him returning would be better for him, the school, the Norman community, the conference, and the sport in general.
And yes the gap between say 200k and how ever much a mid-late first round rookie contract is still wide, but no nearly so wide as from 0 to that number.
Smaller schools may not be able to offer the exposure to get the full 200k but I promise there are businesses in every community that would love to engage more with these athletes. Why do car dealerships hire ex athletes? Why did Barry Sanders sell siding for a company in Wichita? This could actually improve the relationship between these athletes and their community.