Filipino basketball players are starting to become global commodities — and even NBA prospects.
It started when 7-foot-3 big man Kai Sotto signed with the first-ever iteration G League Ignite back in May of 2020. Fourteen months later, Overtime Elite has tapped athletic 6-foot-5 winger Lebron Lopez as part of its inaugural batch.
But what is the difference between the two programs?
For starters, both Ignite and OTE came about due to the influx of “one-and-done” talents in the US collegiate system. After one year in college, elite incoming sophomores can throw their name in the NBA Draft.
However, college players cannot earn from their likeness during their time in the NCAA since it will break their “amateur status.”
Australian league NBL Next Stars became a groundbreaking initiative back in 2018. It let young elite overseas players play one year there until they become eligible for the NBA Draft. The chosen players will receive a salary of at least AUS$100,000, as well as a car, apartment, and flights home during league breaks
Not wanting to let their players go overseas to play out their sole year after high school abroad, G League launched its Ignite program. Select prospects will receive a five-month contract that is worth six figures to train in the league’s facility in Walnut Creek, California; play alongside former pros,; and go up against the rest of the league. Besides this, players have an option to study in Arizona State University.
Filipino-American Jalen Green was the first to sign with the program. Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, Jonathan Kuminga, Princepal Singh — and of course, Sotto — then followed.
Some of their ex-pro teammates were Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson, and Bobby Brown while their head coach was former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw.
Ignite, sans Sotto, were able to play 15 games inside the Orlando bubble, going 8-7 against the 17 other members of the G League.
A few days before the 2021 G League season ended, Overtime, a sports network, made an announcement that they would launch “a transformative new sports league” called Elite.
Unlike Ignite, OTE looks to sign 30 elite prospects from ages 16-18 “all living, learning, training and playing in a single city.”
Just like Ignite, players will be well-compensated with a guaranteed minimum salary of at least $100,000 per year, plus bonuses and shares of equity in Overtime.
While Ignite had Shaw, along with assistants Chris Farr, Rasheed Hazzard, and Jerry Woods, OTE promises that for every four players, there will be one coach.
Heading the OTE program is former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie.
OTE’s Jalen Green is 16-year-old Jalen Lewis, who has just signed a US$1-million multi-year deal with the league.
Other players in OTE’s roster are Matt and Ryan Bewley; Amen and Ausar Thompson, and Jai Smith; and international players Jean Montero, Emmanuel Maldonado, Alexandre Sarr, Nathan Missia-Dio, and, of course, Lopez.
At the end of the day, Sotto, who will play with NBL’s Adelaide after a year in Ignite; and Lopez have definitely changed the game for young Filipino prospects who have dreams of playing in the big league.