Kentucky junior center Oscar Tshiebwe tackled opposing frontcourts averaging 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds throughout the 2021-22 season to earn Southeastern Conference and Consensus National Player of the Year honors.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Tshiebwe could have been drafted in the NBA draft as a marginal first- or second-round draft pick. But with the chance to earn more than $2 million from Name, Image and Likeness deals in the UK, Tshiebwe opted to return to school, becoming the first international of the year since Tyler, according to Stadium.com’s Jeff Goodman from North Carolina Hansbrough in 2009.
The opportunities to make ZERO money have given college football and basketball players another chance to think before deciding to join the pros as underclassmen.
Underclassmen still dominated the 2022 NBA Draft lottery. The top seven picks were players who left college after either their freshman or sophomore seasons. But more of the borderline first-round picks, like Tshiebwe, Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, Indiana center Trayce Jackson-Davis and Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, opted to return to school. Timme has zero deals with Dollar Shave Club, Boost Mobile, and a casino in the Spokane, Washington, area while Dickinson has a deal with Outback Steakhouse. The terms of all deals were not disclosed.
“We all realize that another year of college basketball was up for them from a development perspective and now from a monetary perspective, so it’s working for them,” Mike DeCourcy, national collegiate basketball analyst for Sporting News and Big Ten Network said. “Three years ago we saw… a few dozen players or so who would leave early entry and not even get selected.
First-round NBA draft picks receive four-year contracts with two guaranteed years and two team options. Most of the four-year contacts for first-round NBA rookies were valued between $20 million and $40 million.
Second-round picks enter the league with no guaranteed deals. Some may be hiding out in the NBA’s developmental league, the G League, with $250,000 a year in two-way contracts.
Miami point guard Nijel Pack, a former All-Big 12 point guard, showed the earning potential a NIL-era star collegiate basketball player could generate when he agreed to a two-year, $800,000 contract to post the LiveWallet app to promote his move from Kansas state.
“It’s not a simple number,” DeCourcy said. “You have to be quite a college star to get that in Europe. You have to be a significant player and you certainly don’t get that as a G-League regular.”
Indiana University basketball player Jackson-Davis and forward Race Thompson both made money from NIL deals during the 2021-22 season, with Thompson appearing in a commercial for an Indiana bank.
“There are a few little things, but I wouldn’t say NIL was the reason I came back,” Thompson said. “It was really just about me becoming the player I want to be and then trusting again that these coaches will push me to be that player.”
Jackson-Davis, a former first-team All-Big Ten star and likely preseason All-American, should buck this year as the top and highest-grossing collegiate player in a basketball-mad state with more deals.
“I wouldn’t look at the NIL as a major reason why I stayed, although I know there’s likely to be money and opportunity there and I’m blessed to be in that situation,” Jackson-Davis said. “Of course I’ll use it to my advantage, but I’m here to play basketball and I’m going to finish my studies.”
In football, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford announced his return for the 2022 season ahead of the school’s performance at the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Last December, the soon-to-be fourth-year starter said he would be utilizing an additional year of eligibility, his sixth with the program.
In April, Clifford announced the formation of Limitless NIL, considered at the time to be the first player-founded NIL agency. In an article with ESPN’s Pete Thamel during the launch of Clifford’s company, the quarterback said he “made more than $100,000 on NIL deals” in 2021. However, Clifford did not specifically name his NIL returns in 2021 as a key motivator for his return for another season.
He cited his early experiences of the emerging changes and their potential long-term impact as driving forces behind the creation of his agency. He hopes to use what he learned during the NIL process and help his peers in collegiate athletics better navigate the space and understand its intricacies.
“I think there needs to be a very strong direction for where NIL is going,” Clifford said in the spring. “If not, it can either go left or right. I would love to see it really be a life changer for everyone for generations to come.”
Including Clifford, Limitless NIL has seven employees. The quarterback’s younger brother, Penn State wide receiver Liam Clifford, is the company’s chief development officer. Former Penn State defense attorney Aeneas Hawkins serves as Limitless NIL’s chief athlete officer.
The roster for Limitless includes Penn State safety Ji’Ayir Brown and Penn State men’s and women’s basketball players Myles Dread and Anna Camden.
“We’ve been working on this for a while, just getting it together as a tag team,” Liam Clifford said this spring. “That was so much fun. I’ve learned so much. Most of what I’ve learned over the past few months has been working with Limitless. It was really fun picking the brains of different CEOs and doing some stuff like that.”