Is Overtime’s Plan to Pay High Schoolers Six Figures to Play Basketball a Smart Idea?

Whether it is or not, the multimedia company wants to launch a semi-pro hoops league in 2021

Dalen Terry and Mikey Williams
Dalen Terry (53) from Hillcrest Prep and Mikey Williams (21) look on during the Pangos All-American Camp in 2019.
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A new semi-professional league that will pay the top high school basketball prospects in the country up to six figures to play ball is in the works, according to 247Sports’ Travis Branham.

The league will be launched by Brooklyn-based Overtime, a sports-media startup focused on high school athletes that has raised millions of dollars in funding from backers including MSG Networks and NBA players like Victor Oladipo, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

Per 247Sports’ sources, Overtime will announce the venture this month and hopes to begin competition with a league featuring up to eight teams of talented high schoolers in September of 2021.

The goal of the league will be to provide “a new preps-to-pro alternative.” Salaries for the teenaged players are “expected to be well within the six-figure range.”

Playing in the Overtime Select league may impact a player’s NCAA eligibly and the expectation is that most of the prospects would move into the G League (which Overtime already has a relationship with) or overseas opportunities after graduation.

“The prospects competing in this league are expected to no longer attend their local high schools or participate in scholastic events but to compete on the Overtime Select league while receiving coaching and training from former NBA athletes, coaches and trainers and academically receiving non-traditional education,” Branham writes.

Mikey Williams, a 6’2″, 175-pound point guard from San Diego with 2.7 million followers on Instagram who is scheduled to graduate in 2023, is reportedly a primary target of Overtime.

Looked at one way, the league would be a great opportunity for prospects like Williams to cash in on their fame at an early age and take control of their earning potential without waiting. Why make money for others when you can make it for yourself?

Looked at another, it seems like it would certainly have the potential to be providing young men with short-term cash while costing them in the long-term by removing them from school and a traditional education. If playing in the league would ultimately make a player ineligible to play NCAA ball and resume an education in college, that issue looms even larger.

Remember, only a fraction of players that have success at the NCAA level get drafted to play in the NBA and then only a handful of those players go on to have lengthy pro careers. (The NCAA estimates 4.2% of draft-eligible Division I players were chosen in the 2019 NBA draft.) And with NBA teams dipping into the overseas talent pool with greater regularity these days — 11 international players have been drafted on average each year since 2009 — there are fewer spots to go around than ever before.

Theoretically, by going pro as a teenager in the Overtime Select league, a player like Williams would be making it very clear his intent is to lock down one of those coveted NBA spots. And who knows? He very well may be able to. Nearly three million Instagram followers can’t be completely wrong.

But if he wasn’t able to cut it in the NBA, Williams wouldn’t have a full high school — let alone college — education to fall back on, and the majority of the six-figure salary he made as a teenager would probably not be in the bank.

That would all be his choice and he should be allowed to make it. But it seems fair to question whether an entity like Overtime should even present going pro at such an early age as an option to kids who are old enough to dunk but not to vote.

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