Jalen Lewis, a rising star for Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd and one of the top prep basketball prospects for the Class of 2023, will forgo his final two years of high school and become one of the first players to sign with a new league that promises big money for the best young talent in the country.
Lewis, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound five-star rated post player by 247Sports, announced the news on social media shortly after his first Friday morning airing by The Athletic. His contract with Atlanta-based Overtime Elite, which sees him begin playing in September, was worth more than $1 million over several years. At 16, Lewis will become the youngest professional basketball player in American history.
“It was an opportunity for Jalen to pursue a dream and take a non-traditional path. To be the first of his kind as a youngster. It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Lou Richie, the coach of Bishop O’Dowd Friday afternoon in a phone interview. “I and the O’Dowd community, as well as the greater Oakland community, support him and are here to support him however we can during let him undertake this journey.”
110% committed! OTE Let’s Rock! pic.twitter.com/o8mGRgesqQ
— Jalen Lewis (@jalenlewiss) July 9, 2021
Lewis played for two seasons under Richie at Bishop O’Dowd alongside Cal-bound Marsalis Roberson. As a rookie, Lewis helped lead the Dragons to the NorCal Open Division Finals before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He was named to the Bay Area News Group Fab 25 after his sophomore season this spring.
Overtime Elite have been chasing Lewis since at least the start of this spring.
On Friday, Lewis made it official. After signing the professional agreement, he is no longer eligible for the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school sports.
Richie said he did not consult Lewis on the decision.
“As he was going up the charts in freshman year…you could tell the kid was just different,” Richie said. “Shoe size 17. A student. Elite work ethic. Everything started to fall into place…
“With overtime, Jalen is clearly one of the best players in his class. It’s an opportunity. It’s a possibility. Overtime is smart. They reached out and saw his value. …
“He’s playing basketball right now and everybody’s making money from him. Whether it’s high school, college or an AAU team. He’s going to make money for himself. …Baseball players have turned professional over the past hundred years, now when a basketball player does it, people look at it differently.
Lewis is the third player the league has signed in the Class of 2023, alongside Matt and Ryan Bewley, a pair of five-star twins from Florida, whose contracts were worth $500,000 a year.
Kevin Ollie, the former Connecticut men’s coach, is the head coach and director of player development.
All players with OTE are guaranteed an annual salary of at least $100,000 and receive full health care coverage, according to the league. Players also get injury insurance and up to $100,000 in college tuition if they leave professional basketball, according to the league.
In the classroom, players will be taught one-on-one or in small groups by individual instructors, according to the league, which says it will “complement a traditional course offering with an emphasis on life skills , including financial literacy, media literacy, and advocacy and sports, and basketball business.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.