Naasir Cunningham, the No. 1 basketball prospect in the Class of 2024, is going to sign with Overtime Elite.
Cunningham said that this was the best place for him to develop as a player while getting the right education to fall back on. I want to be one of the best basketball players in the league, a NBA draft lottery pick, and possibly one of the best in the league. Overtime will allow me to become the best player I can be.
Cunningham is the highest-ranked recruit to sign with the upstart league and is considered a prospect with significant upside for the NBA ranks. He has a 6-11 wingspan and is a 6-foot-7 with a dynamic perimeter shooting ability.
Cunningham will be the first player to forgo being paid a salary by OTE, which will preserve his eligibility to play college basketball after graduating from high school. He will still be able to make money off his name, image and likeness in high school, providing him with additional earning potential over the next two years without jeopardizing his amateur status.
Cunningham said that keeping his eligibility for college was important as it gave him more options when he was done with high school. Competing against the best will help me reach my goals.
Cunningham has been at Gill St. Bernard for the first two years of his high school career. He was the top player in his class at the Nike EYBL 16U division, where he averaged over 15 points and six boards in 28 minutes per game for the NY Rens. At the Hoophall Classic in Springfield in January, he exploded for 23 points (5-for-7 from 3-point range), 11 rebounds and 3 assists in a win over Westtown School. Cunningham needs to add strength to his frame.
Overtime, a sports media company which lists Jeff Bezos, Kevin Durant and Trae Young among its investors, announced the OTE initiative as an academy-style alternative pathway for elite 16- to 18-year-old prospects to prepare for the NBA draft, just over a year ago. The first season concluded in Atlanta in March with twin brother Amen being named the Most Valuable Player, over projected top 10 pick Ausar Thompson.
The venture initially offered players six-figure salaries, an educational component, state-of-the-art facilities and considerable resources as incentive to forgo their college eligibility. The organization will now allow players a scholarship option and the ability to take a salary in order to not close the door on the NCAA route, which could be a game-changer for OTE's recruiting efforts.
Cunningham could choose to conduct his NBA draft-eligible gap year following high school with OTE, similar to what projected first-round pick Jean Montero did this year, as well as projected second-round pick Dominick Barlow. He could enroll in college.
Cunningham said he has received scholarship offers from a number of schools.
The OTE scholarship was created by Tim Nevius, an attorney and former NCAA compliance officer who has been publicly named as an adviser of Overtime. The company will hire a full-time compliance staff member who will act as a liaison after communicating with the NCAA to share its plans and ensure it is following amateurism guidelines.
Overtime has previously signed NIL deals with high school and college players, such as UCLA's Jada Williams, South Carolina's Zia Cooke, and Duke commit Jared McCain. Cunningham will be eligible for NIL deals, as well as other third-party companies. Overtime has a large online following on different social media platforms. The main account has more followers on TikTok than the official NBA account and all 30 NBA teams combined.
The director of scouting and recruiting at OTE, Tim Fuller, played a major role in landing Cunningham's signature.
The model from the beginning has been to empower players and families with options. The best player development model in the country is ours. We did not have the scholarship option when we first started recruiting Cunningham. It is up to each family to decide what path they want to take. It was easier to pull the trigger at an earlier age if you had options.
OTE was approved by the NBA last year as a scouting platform for teams to send representatives to evaluate pro prospects. The league hosted several pro days, which were well attended, as well as a few dozen games at OTE's arena in Atlanta. OTE is targeting games against junior colleges, European clubs, national teams and possibly the G League Ignite or NBA academies as potential scheduling opportunities in Year 2.
It is a dream come true to have this much talent under one roof in a city like Atlanta. The resources are poured in. Pro scouts are excited about that. People want to see our players in the most competitive environments possible, and we are attacking our schedule aggressively now, working to bring in the best talent that we can align with.
21 of the 26 players from the inaugural recruiting class will return to OTE, with the rest going to the pro ranks after a postgraduate year. The league will have around 30 players next season on its three teams and will begin to unveil the rest of its signings in the near future.
OTE is the premier destination for upcoming athletes that want to develop their skill set and become pros, and the signing of a player of Naasir Cunningham will further that narrative. We are going to be very careful. The start with Naas sets the tone for what we are trying to do. People that were told no are starting to ask for more information.