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2024 5-Star SF Naasir Cunningham Signs with Overtime Elite, Keeps College Eligibility

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 25, 2022

AP Photo/Gregory Payan

Naasir Cunningham, a 5-star small forward and the top overall player from the class of 2024 in 247Sports' composite rankings, told ESPN's Jonathan Givony on Monday he is signing with Overtime Elite. 

"This is the best place for me to develop as a player, while getting the right education to fall back on at the same time," he said. "Overtime built a relationship with my family and I, which was a big factor in trusting them with my future. I want to be the best basketball player I can, an NBA draft lottery pick and hopefully one of the best in the league. Overtime is going to put me in position to become the best player I can."

Cunningham will not be paid a salary from Overtime, however, which will preserve his college eligibility once he graduates, though he will be able to profit from NIL rights over the next two years. 

Cunningham said the ability to keep his college eligibility played a crucial part in his decision:

"Being able to keep my eligibility for college was important as that gives me more options when I'm done with high school and ready to decide my next move. At Overtime you still get the same academics as a regular high school, but not every school has the same equipment and facilities they do, which are top of the line, as well as the best trainers, coaching staff and other elite players. Competing against the best and working with the best there is, that's what will help me reach my goals."

Overtime Elite was founded to give high school prospects between the ages of 16 and 18 a paid, developmental opportunity before they head to the NBA's G League or overseas opportunities. 

One year into the project, players can decide between a six-figure salary for playing in the league and more of a "scholarship" route, as Givony noted, which Cunningham is choosing. If players choose the former option, they lose college eligibility. 

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

Snippet of my interview with Naasir Cunningham, who signed with Overtime Elite today according to <a href="https://twitter.com/DraftExpress?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DraftExpress</a>. <a href="https://t.co/UeRJ9kEKPU">pic.twitter.com/UeRJ9kEKPU</a>

But players who go the scholarship route could also choose to stay with Overtime Elite in their gap year between high school and the NBA—the league requires players to be one year removed from high school before being draft-eligible—and earn a six-figure salary for that year. 

In other words, Overtime Elite could serve as a competitor to college basketball, even if players like Cunningham maintain an interest in playing collegiately. 

Per ESPN, Cunningham has received offers from Duke, Kansas, UCLA, LSU, Maryland, Texas Tech, Creighton, UConn, Rutgers and St. John's, among other schools. Given that he's widely considered the top player in the class of 2024, that's hardly a surprise. 

Cunningham's profile and talent make him a huge get for Overtime Elite as it looks to build itself as the best option for top prospects.  

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