INDEPENDENCE: LeBron James did not play college basketball, but surely saw its dark underside as he rose to international prominence at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

The Cavaliers star is not surprised by the current scandal prompted by the FBI’s investigation into college recruiting, saying Tuesday, “The NCAA is corrupt, we know that. Sorry, it’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt.”

With sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce participating in the sport, James said he’s given serious thought to an NBA farm system, a plan that might further undermine the college game, and hopes to discuss his ideas with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“I don’t know if there’s any fixing the NCAA,” James said after shootaround at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “It’s what’s been going on for many, many, many, many years. I don’t know how you can fix it. I don’t see how you can fix it.

“Obviously, I’ve never been a part of it, so … I don’t know all the rules and regulations about it. But I do know what five-star athletes bring to a campus, both in basketball and football. I know how much these college coaches get paid. I know how much these colleges are gaining off these kids. … I’ve always heard the narrative that they get a free education, but you guys are not bringing me on campus to get an education, you guys are bringing me on it to help you get to a Final Four or to a national championship. So it’s just a weird thing.”

James wouldn’t give an example of the craziest offer he got in recruiting, even when given the out of not naming names.

“Me?” he asked, laughing. “Listen, man. I can’t even talk about that. Me and my mom was poor, I’ll tell you that, and they expected me to step foot on a college campus and not to go to the NBA? We weren’t going to be poor for long, I tell you that.”

He said he wants to discuss his farm system idea with Silver and other league officials in a “longer dialogue,” and outlined his reasoning.

“If kids feel like they don’t want to be a part of that NCAA program, then we have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time,” James said, a route taken by St. V-M teammates Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce III, who are still playing in Europe. James even brought up Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi.

“You look at pros overseas, some of those guys get signed at 14, but they get put into this farm system where they’re able to grow and be around other professionals for three or four years, then we’re they’re ready they hit the national team or when they’re ready they become a pro.

“We’re worried about kids coming into the league early but they’re not ready, then out of the league because of that. I don’t have the answer to it right now, but I’ve kind of been brainstorming a lot. If you look at Messi’s story, he was a professional for like five or six years before he actually became a professional.”

Forward Cedi Osman played professionally in Turkey for four years before signing with the Cavs in July, which James has mentioned several times this season. A plan similar to James’ G League idea is in place in Major League Soccer, which has a homegrown player rule that allows those from its teams’ academies to sign directly with the league.

LeBron on billboards

James has not seen the messages on three billboards along Interstate 480 posted by Philadelphia-based Power Home Remodeling in an attempt to lure him to the 76ers this summer in free agency. But he was well aware of their presence and considers it flattering.

“It is. Absolutely,” he said. “You can say it’s a distraction, it’s not. It is actually very flattering that I’m sitting here at 33 and in my 15th year and … people in their respective city want me to play for them. That’s cool I think. That’s dope.”

James can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in July, possibly leaving Cleveland for the second time.

The billboards are close to the Cavs’ practice facility, but they are not on James’ route from his Bath home to Cleveland Clinic Courts or Quicken Loans Arena.

“A lot of potholes on 480. Gotta be careful with the cars,” James joked. “That’s why I don’t do much driving. I sit in the backseat.”

Cavs fan banned

The Cavs were able to identify the fan who yelled a racial slur at Spurs guard Patty Mills during Sunday’s game and the offender will be banned indefinitely. The first review of that decision will come a year from now.

Mills was at the free-throw line with 2:29 remaining in the Spurs’ 110-94 victory when on the ABC broadcast a fan can be heard yelling, “Hey, Mills, Jamaica just called, they want their bobsledder back!”

Mills is a native of Australia who is black and has Aboriginal roots. He wears his hair in partial dreadlocks.

When alerted to the insensitive comments via social media, Mills said on Twitter, “I am a proud Islander. Like my Jamaican Brothers, me & my family in the islands of the Torres Strait have experienced racial slurs for decades. Hope your efforts will enlighten this confused, hateful fan. #BlackHistoryMonth.”

‘Black Panther’ rave

James is close friends with Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan and writer-director Ryan Coogler, but that’s not why James called it “one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen.” He and wife Savannah went Monday night without sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce, who had already seen the Marvel smash.

“I think it was like perfect timing,” James said. “Black Panther is that because right now, in society where we’re talking Black Lives Matter and equality and things of that nature. We see a community Wakanda, basically shielding [themselves] away from everybody because they felt what they had and how they protected their ones was the best way for them to survive. And then towards the end they said in order for us to survive as a people we have to be one.

“In order for us to be as great as we can be we have to be one and we’re going to lend our resources, we’re going to lend what we’ve done over our whole existence to everybody.”

James said growing up he loved Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Iron Man, but never thought he’d see a black superhero.

“I never thought I could be them because they were always white Americans or white,” he said of his idols. “I kind of looked up more to athletes and rappers and people in my neighborhood because they are one of color. To see how powerful Black Panther is and how powerful his tribe was and his people around him, it just gave you a sense of like, ‘Yes, not only can we be the president of the United States, Barack Obama, but we can also be a superhero and Black Panther.’ That’s so dope for me and so dope for my kids to see that right now. … So much positive going on and so great to have that type of positive feel in such a negative time.”

James said he spoke to Jordan a couple of days ago, and Coogler attended a Cavs game last year.

“I’m proud to be an African-American right now watching that movie, I will tell you that,” James said, adding he will probably see it three or four more times.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com.