2024 No. 1 Prospect Gets Best of Both Worlds with OTE Commitment

    • The top men's basketball prospect in the class of 2024 is joining Overtime Elite.
    • To keep NCAA options alive, he won't receive a salary for playing.

Last year, Overtime launched a professional high school men’s basketball league called Overtime Elite, an enticing and lucrative alternative to the traditional amateur hoops pipeline.

But there was a major catch: because players were paid salaries, participants would lose NCAA eligibility.

2024 No. 1 men’s prospect Naasir Cunningham, however, found a loophole.

The young star will join the league next season, OTE announced. But Overtime, which normally offers six-figure paychecks, won’t pay Cunningham a salary so he can keep NCAA options open, a spokesperson confirmed to Front Office Sports.

Cunningham will also get a “scholarship” package, per ESPN. He’ll receive educational resources, access to OTE facilities, and the ability to profit off his name, image, and likeness.

Overtime Elite held its inaugural season this year, streaming games on its own platforms. The league came with the backing of major investors including Drake and Jeff Bezos, who contributed to an $80 million Series C funding round in April 2021.

Despite the league’s hype, there were concerns about post-OTE options, particularly as the league catered to players looking to make the NBA. 

Graduating athletes would have few options as the NCAA no longer saw them as amateurs. They could stay at OTE, go overseas, or attempt to play in the G League in the year between high school and NBA draft eligibility.

Losing the platform and infrastructure of blue-blood NCAA basketball raised a major question mark. The growth of NIL in college sports also potentially made OTE less alluring, as players could now be assured they could make money while in the NCAA. 

Cunningham, however, is paving a new path that certainly appears to be the best of worlds.