Saturday, August 13, 2022

College basketball recruiting: Overtime Elite takes step forward for second season with signing class

Overtime Elite, a start-up professional path for some of the top young hoops prospects in the world, is officially entering its second year and its second annual signing week concluded last week with a major influx of talent. After an up-and-down inaugural season brought questions about the league’s level of competition and ended with neither of its two draft-capable players getting selected (Dom Barlow and Jean Montero), the outlook ahead of season two in a more established position with established stars — for all its bumps in its inaugural season — is nonetheless brightening.

The latest recruiting class did wonders for its appeal on that front, but OTE’s expected jump into the persistent spotlight will come because of two players who share the same last name: twins Amen and Ausar Thompson. After signing with the league last year, they have steadily emerged as lottery talents for 2023 that should help bring OTE newfound interest and intrigue. 

They won’t be alone with that task, though, thanks to an incoming class of players that could help the league jump to a new level in coming months and years as it aims to break through in its second season and beyond.

Here’s a look at who else is on board.

New recruits

In total, Overtime Elite has 29 student-athletes signed for next season with its goal to get to 30. Of those, 20 are returning and nine are newbies. The fresh faces sprinkled about range from five-stars to no-stars (yet) and everyone in between. Here’s a look at the rookies integrating themselves into the mix for this season. The class is headlined by No. 1 overall prospect in 2024, Naas Cunningham, as well as top-10 talent Jayden Williams. Five of the eight signees are solidified as top-40 recruits in their respective classes.

  • Naas Cunningham (🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟) — No. 1 recruit in 2024
  • Jayden Williams (🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟) — No. 8 recruit in 2024
  • Kanaan Carlyle (🌟🌟🌟🌟) — No. 25 in 2023 (and Stanford commit)
  • Jahki Howard (🌟🌟🌟🌟) — No. 28 recruit in 2024
  • Jeremy Fears (🌟🌟🌟🌟) — No. 39 recruit in 2024 (and Michigan State commit)
  • Tyler Bey (🌟🌟🌟) — NR in 2023
  • Treymane Parker (🌟🌟🌟) — NR in 2023
  • Bryson Tiller — NR in 2024

  • ZZ Clark — NR in 2024 (Illinois commit and brother of Illinois-bound Skyy Clark)

Returning players

Amen and Ausar Thompson could both be top-five picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. They flashed in competition in a big way last season and have emerged in recent months as bona fide stars to watch for next year’s class. They’re among the handful of big names who are returning that includes brothers Ryan and Matt Bewley, Jazian Gortman, Bryce Griggs and others. 

  • Amen Thompson
  • Ausar Thompson
  • Matt Bewley

  • Ryan Bewley
  • Jazian Gortman
  • Bryce Griggs
  • Izan Almansa
  • Malik Bowman
  • TJ Clark
  • De’Vontes Cobbs
  • Jah Jackson

  • Jalen Lewis
  • Jaylen Martin
  • Nathan Missia-Dio
  • Alexandre Sarr
  • Tyler Smith
  • Tudor Somacescu
  • Johned Walker

  • Bryson Warren
  • Kok Yat

Updated outlook

While there is always going to be competition for Overtime Elite to sign top talents — the G League Ignite, college (with NIL), the NBL and others — it seems as if OTE has carved out its own niche in the marketplace tailored to youngsters who have both aspirations to play in college and ultimately in the pros. That, it appears, is the biggest appeal with the league. Players are signing with the ability to retain future college eligibility if they choose while going through a program that allows them to focus on both academics and athletics in a hybrid high school model (on steroids).

Level of competition is probably still the biggest question mark with OTE moving forward. It has a professional feel about the league — it is run by former UConn coach Kevin Ollie — and its strength and conditioning staff has the trappings of an amped-up college program. But solving the level of competition will be the biggest objective to retaining and maintaining legitimacy in the coming years.

Talent is no longer a question for OTE, clearly. The Thompson twins’ addition last year as well as the Bewley brothers was a huge coup that looks like it was an incredible bet. That has allowed them to capitalize with adding Naas Cunningham in this class. The more big names you draw, the more NBA talent you produce, the more likely you are to repeat the cycle of signing top players and building the league.

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