The quality of prep basketball in the state of Minnesota has never been higher, and the debate about how prep players with pro futures should be compensated has never been more intense — with the NBA G League and several overseas clubs targeting high school graduates to skip college and make money before a likely pro career.
Now, a company called Overtime Elite is looking to bring concepts that have flourished at European soccer academies to the United States for prep basketball — a move that will place them right in the heart of the debate about how prep boys' basketball players in this country should navigate their futures.
The idea for the Overtime Elite league is to provide financial incentives and protection for 30 of the best players in the country, who would be paid at least $100,000 per year to forgo their high school and college eligibility to join the proposed league.
The league would target players between the ages of 16 and 18.
Players and their families would move to a host city for Overtime Elite — the city has yet to be determined but the league plans to start in September — and play against top prep programs in the United States and overseas.
Players would also get equity in the company, full health insurance, disability insurance coverage in case of injury, and players who participate in the program would be guaranteed payment up to $100,000 for college education if they decided to not pursue pro basketball.
On top of that, players could earn money from use of their likeness, and sign sponsorship deals with sneaker companies.
The league is being run by Commissioner and President Aaron Ryan and Head of Basketball Operations Brandon Williams. Both have extensive experience in executive roles with the NBA and Team USA.
Ryan, who grew up in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis and still has family in the area, joined Overtime Elite after more than 22 years working for the NBA in a variety of roles, including senior vice president with USA Basketball.
And while the league would have an accredited academic program, it would also focus on courses dealing with financial literacy, media training and social justice — areas the league feels would be beneficial to players on a pro sports path.
Carmelo Anthony, the 10-time NBA All-Star who played one year at Syracuse, won an NCAA Championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2003 Final Four, is serving on the board of directors and told the New York Times that the league isn't trying to circumvent the NCAA or undercut the NBA, which has recently been targeting prep stars for its G League.
"We are not against the NCAA," Anthony told the Times. "We are not against the NBA. We are not trying to hurt those guys or come at them. We want the support of the NBA and NCAA Eventually we are going to need those guys anyway."
The NBA has not allowed high school players to go straight to the NBA since 2006, and the NCAA will appear before the United States Supreme Court later this year in the case of National Collegiate Athletic Association vs. Alston which focuses on financial compensation for college athletes.
You can read more about the league in this story from the New York Times.