Report: Class of 2023 basketball star Mikey Williams becomes first high school athlete to sign NIL deal

Former San Ysidro High School basketball star Mikey Williams has signed a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal with Excel Sports that could potentially earn him millions of dollars, per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Williams has over 5 million followers across multiple social media platforms, which was the driving factor behind his deal with Excel Sports. He is the No. 7 overall prospect in ESPN’s top 100 boys basketball rankings for the class of 2023.

Williams played his freshman year of high school basketball for San Ysidro in San Diego. Last year, the talented guard attended Lake Norman Christian in Charlotte, North Carolina. He’s still expected to take online classes at Lake Norman Christian this year, but he’ll play basketball for Vertical Academy, a North Carolina based team that will play a national high school schedule and won’t be sanctioned by a state association.

Following a Supreme Court decision allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness, the National Federation of High Schools released a statement saying that decision won’t affect high school athletes. Since Williams will play for a school that is not governed by a state association, he can’t face repercussions for signing his NIL deal. Athletes that do play on teams governed by state associations would potentially be punished if they signed a NIL deal, according to the NFHS.

While it is not our position to debate the merits of current college athletes earning money from their NIL, it should be understood that these changes do not affect current high school student-athletes. Current high school student-athletes CANNOT earn money as a result of their connection to their high school team.

Already, in less than a week, we have seen articles suggesting that high school athletes should likewise be able earn money from their NIL. Our member state associations have rules in place that prohibit student-athletes from receiving money in any form that is connected to wearing their school uniform.

While an NCAA Q&A on NIL notes that “NIL opportunities may not be used as a recruiting inducement or as a substitute for pay-for-play,” it also states that “prospective student-athletes may engage in the same types of NIL opportunities available to current student-athletes under the interim policy without impacting their NCAA eligibility.” 

This is disturbing and contradictory information. Although this would not impact a current student’s NCAA eligibility, the athlete would be ineligible through his or her own state high school association. And we would suggest that high school students participating in out-of-school programs must not be allowed to benefit from NIL.

The landscape surrounding NIL deals is changing rapidly. No other high school athlete can come close to Williams’ social media following, which is why he signed his NIL deal first. But will his deal be a one off for high school athletes or will others get deals in the future? Time will tell.

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