Overtime Elite newest recruiting threat to Michigan Basketball

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the second half against the UCF Knights at Crisler Arena on December 06, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the second half against the UCF Knights at Crisler Arena on December 06, 2020 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

When it comes to recruiting, Michigan basketball doesn’t have to just worry about other college teams as the Overtime Elite are another threat on the trail. 

The recent Netflix documentary on the mid-2000’s Indiana Pacers shined a light on more than one prominent story.

Other than the obvious eruption of concessions and regrettable actions inside the Palace of Auburn Hills that one unfaithful night in 2005, the documentary served as an outlet for Jermaine O’Neal to display an upstanding sense of pride when speaking on behalf of his playing career.

Months before his 18th birthday, O’Neal would walk on stage of the old Meadowlands Arena and shake the hands of David Stern in celebration of his first-round NBA draft selection in 1996.

Call it an unreasonable risk for a teenager who isn’t legally allowed to buy lottery tickets to forgo the status quo and not join his fellow ranks to college.

But for a player like O’Neal, who enjoyed six All-Star selections and three All-NBA honors throughout his storied three-decade-long career, those feats aren’t consummated without having a testament to oneself’s talents to play high-level basketball.

That’s because O’Neal and the likes of LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant, proved that a channel from prep school to the NBA while skipping the college route could be ordained without damping both personal and professional careers.

Come 2021, almost identical to how O’Neal and his comrades were able to change tradition and help overthrow a system that bodes against amateur athletes earning a salary, the same is happening now in that more than one pathway to the NBA is becoming not only acceptable but celebrated.

The disruption of the former structure that is prep/high school-college-NBA is being shocked by longtime competitors and new wave contenders.

Outside of the overseas opportunity where current professional mainstays like LaMelo Ball and Emmanuel Mudiay flew to Australia and China, respectively, for a year of hard-nosed learning before entering the NBA draft, the real changes are coming to the United States and fast.

Making real money in the G-League and grinding alongside those starving for a moment under the sun was what drove rookie phenoms Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga to G-League Ignite. A creation set forth by the NBA, Ignite was founded for high school and prep recruits to be paid for on-the-court services without the distractions a college experience might unfortunately incorporate.

Green and Kuminga would both be drafted in the top-10 of this year’s NBA draft. A peril that isn’t taken in stride by all as the Ignite’s current roster has only six players under the age of 21 but an uncertainty worth accepting as evident by the recent fortunes achieved by Green and Kuminga.

The Ignite aren’t the only resource outside of college in the United States for recruits with NBA stardom aspirations. Another developmental league has already gained recognition on a generation ready to come of age.

Set to make its anticipated debut in September is the newly formed Overtime Elite League, launched by the online digital media company Overtime back in early March.

According to its official website, Overtime Elite, “Offers a year-round development program combining world-class coaching; cutting-edge sports science and performance technology; top-notch facilities; and a rigorous, highly personalized academic program that energizes and enhances each athlete’s journey from proficiency to pro for the next generation of athlete empowerment.”

OTE is expected to have 24 to 30 players signed to the program who will all train, be educated, and earn a salary at the league’s headquarters in Atlanta. Players targeted are rising juniors, seniors, and post-high school graduates between the ages of 16 and 18.

Added onto full healthcare and disability insurance coverage, as well as at least $100,000 in guaranteed salary, players will be offered another $100,000 in college tuition should they pursue an education and not a professional basketball career.

What’s also important to note is Overtime’s participation in revenue sharing for a player’s name, image, and likeness, exactly the same process now occurring within the NCAA. Funding is being provided by a consortium featuring Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos, hip-hop sensation Drake, and multiple NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

Prominent names inside the Overtime Elite administration include Board of Directors Jay Williams and Carmelo Anthony, former G-League President Malcolm Turner, former Major League Baseball CFO Jonathan Mariner, and OTE head coach and Director of Player Development Kevin Ollie.

The trajectory of OTE in its adolescent stages depends highly on whether signing recruits with one or two more years left of high school will end up being the preferred business model for leagues competing with collegiate clubs.

It feels like a no-brainer for a 16 or 17-year-old who’s itching to be paid six or seven figures while continuing his education at a facility where his ceiling can continue climbing. Dollar signs talk and the effect it can have on teenagers in the basketball world is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Just ask Jermaine O’Neal.

As of August 18, Overtime Elite has signed 15 players, with Hightower (TX) point guard Bryce Griggs recently agreeing to a two-year, $1.2 million contract.

Griggs is the No. 43 ranked prospect in the country of the 2022 class according to the 247Sports Composite. 2022 Five-star Keenan (SC) point guard Jazian Gortman, rated as the No. 8 overall recruit nationally by the 247Sports Composite, signed a one-year, $650,000 deal with OTE on August 14.

OTE has the financial backing, capable leadership, and future stars necessary to make a respectable attempt to jam the finger into an institution previously lacking in supplying deserved compensation and elite competition.

So how does this all affect Michigan basketball?

Michigan basketball was in the news this week when Dr. Phillips (FL) five-star big man Ernest Udeh Jr. included the program in his top-10 list Monday. Udeh told On3.com that along with the Wolverines, Alabama, Baylor, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Miami, Tennessee, UCLA, and Overtime Elite made the latest cut.

Udeh, in an interview with 247Sports reporter Eric Bossi, said regarding Michigan:

"“Juwan Howard has been contacting me since day one. He watched me I think for the first time was with my high school team in Atlanta. He started recruiting me then and has been hard on me ever since. Always checking on me, seeing how I’m doing. Him being a big and his experience of playing at the highest level I’m trying to get to, you can’t ignore that.”"

It’s been reported for some time that Howard and his staff are looking to fill up two more scholarship spots to round out the 2022 class. Michigan has already secured four-stars Tarris Reed Jr. and Dug McDaniel and it’s widely assumed that Howard’s youngest son, Jett, will verbally commit following his official visit in September.

Michigan basketball has also expressed interest in Prolific Prep (CA) four-star center Yohan Traore and Calvary Christian Academy (FL) power forward Gregg Glenn. Both of whom are set to visit Ann Arbor this fall.

How this affects the continued recruiting efforts of Udeh is contingent on the likelihood that the others previously mentioned sign elsewhere. Or if the Wolverines feel that signing five is deemed worthy enough to replace the envisioned exodus of players from this year’s roster to the 2022 NBA Draft.

As stated by our own Chris Peterson, should Udeh visit Michigan basketball, it will give a good indication as to how important the No. 56 recruit of the 2022 class is to future plans. Udeh was offered by the Wolverines on July 11 after his offer from Overtime Elite and the eight other schools on his shortlist.

The story here isn’t whether a highly regarded recruit from the state of Florida will choose Michigan or somewhere else but rather how many more future prospects will have to decide between the college route in Ann Arbor or the professional ranks like OTE in the coming years.

Asked about his relationship with OTE from ZagsBlog.com recruiting analyst Jacob Polacheck, Udeh said this:

"“I understand I have an opportunity to not only be a pro but also keep my family ‘comfortable’ for now. I know that they’ll have the resources to keep my development on the rise so they are a real consideration.”"

Comfortable will almost surely be the underlying tone as to why recruits like Udeh and others would sign as a professional with leagues like OTE and G-League Ignite. For the parents and families who sacrificed for the benefit of their son and relative, who certainly never forget their roots, returning the favor is almost always the rightful action.

What can the Wolverines do?

But to prevent the latest conveyor from skipping Michigan, what exactly needs to happen in order for recruiting losses to come shorthanded?

The obvious answer is being at the forefront when it comes to players agreeing to sponsorship deals based on their name, image, and likeness.

When the United States Supreme Court found individuals profiting off their NIL to be legitimate, regardless of the NCAA’s conflicted feelings towards the ruling, it gave the college basketball world a legitimate edge when it comes to recruiting against professional leagues.

Conservative opinions on the NIL are going to ultimately hinder Michigan basketball if the school cautiously adapts to the new way of thinking. It’s already coming to the limelight thanks to Hunter Dickinson voicing his displeasure to The Field of 68 Podcast last week.

Next. Top 10 Michigan point guards of all time. dark

The lesson here is that money talks and Generation Z basketball players aren’t naive in the power of financial comfort. Get with the program so that recruits like Udeh land in Ann Arbor and not a training center down south.