High school athletes are getting major endorsement deals after changes in state law

Jada Williams was a social media star and talented point guard when she moved with her mother from a Kansas City suburb to San Diego, trying to play high school basketball and parlay her online skills into endorsement deals.

He found it all in California, which has become the trendsetter among the 19 states that allow high school athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness without affecting their eligibility to play in college.

Williams, 17, now earns six figures a year from six major deals. The senior at La Jolla Country Day School has signed to play at the University of Arizona.

La Jolla Country Day High School point guard Jada Williams, center, drives to the basket during a basketball game Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Chatsworth, California. NIL) at the high school level, it could very well be the 17-year-old Williams, who is a senior point guard at San Diego’s La Jolla Country Day.

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

“Capitalization from scratch”

“It’s definitely a big change for me, but it’s been good in every way,” Williams said during a break from her grueling practice routine, which she often documents with videos and photos posted online. It was the right decision for school and basketball.

The effort that began when former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon took over the college’s athletic foundation beyond the NIL rules is rapidly reshaping high school sports. Elite prep athletes make six or even seven figures before they go to college. The buzz extends to social media, where top stars have millions of followers on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, which in turn helps boost their valuations to zero.

“It’s growing every day,” said Michael Caspino, a Newport Beach attorney who became familiar with the NIL while reviewing deals for his son’s high school friends and fending off those who tried to take advantage of athletes.

James, Manning and Williams

Three high school stars top On3.com’s NIL ratings, which include both college and high school players. He is Bronny James, the son of Lakers star LeBron James. Arch Manning, the third generation of the first family of quarterbacks. and Mikey Williams, a basketball star at San Ysidro High in San Diego.

James tops the list with a valuation of $7.5 million. He attends Sierra Canyon High in the Los Angeles area and recently signed a deal with Nike. Mikey Williams, who is committed to Memphis and has a multi-year contract with Puma, is valued at $3.6 million. Manning, who attends Isidore Newman High in New Orleans and is committed to Texas, has $3.4 million.

Considered the industry standard, the On3 NIL valuation uses performance, impact and exposure data. While the algorithm includes data from deals, it does not act as a detector of the value of NIL deals.

Jada Williams has half a dozen deals, including Spalding. Move Insoles, which was founded by NBA star Damian Lillard. Lemon Perfect, a bottled water company in which Beyonce is a major investor. and Gym Shark.

“My social media was already kind of big, so I basically did ZERO without getting paid because it was illegal,” he said.

After approaching a few major companies with NIL offers, the family discovered that the deals were not allowed in Missouri and that California was the only state that allowed it at the time.

“I realized wow, this is crazy,” said Williams’ mother, Jill McIntyre. Jada Williams moved to San Diego with her mother and an older sister before her junior year.

“She had to take the opportunity where she can literally invest in her future at 17,” said McIntyre, a regional sales manager for a technology company who helps her daughter manage her business affairs.

So young, yet so rich

“We’re still young, but at the same time we’re learning how to manage money and just learning a lot of life skills that are way bigger than ZERO,” said Williams, a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the USA. junior national team incorporated as Jada Williams Inc. and plans to start a foundation.

Malachi Nelson, a senior quarterback at Los Alamitos High who has committed to USC, has landed big deals even before signing with Klutch Sports, the agency that represents LeBron James. He is 42nd in the top 100 with a valuation of $794,000, 10 spots ahead of UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Jada Williams is at No. 71, worth $550,000.

California was the first state to allow high school athletes to sign NIL deals. Southern California has always been a hotbed of prep talent. Athletes from other areas, like Williams, move to the Golden State to take advantage of the NIL. Some transfer only for their senior season.

Los Alamitos High School quarterback Malachi Nelson throws during a high school football game against Newport Harbor High School on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Newport Beach, California.

AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The NIL has become such a big deal that a Los Alamitos High coach who helps recruit players is also guiding them through the new frontier.

“We have guys on our team that are making a lot more money than I am this year,” Los Alamitos head coach Ray Fenton said. “Across the country, kids are getting paid a lot of money for deals they sign.”

Peter Schoenthal, an NIL expert who is CEO of Athliance in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, predicts that every state will allow high school athletes to take advantage of the NIL within a year or so.

“We have 8-year-olds in this country and around the world who have YouTube channels where they’re making millions of dollars reviewing games,” Schoenthal said. “There’s no way to really stop a person who has the marketing ability to block them from their right to publicity, whether they’re a high school athlete or not, whether they’re a big time recruit or not.”

Zero risks and pitfalls

Schoenthal and Caspino help athletes avoid the downside of the NIL, such as one-sided deals, and offer assistance in understanding taxes and money management.

“Most of the families I’ve worked with are very low on the financial totem pole in our society. For the first time, they can have financial stability in their lives,” said Caspino, whose son, Sam, is a Freshman at SMU .

And coaches try to prevent athletes from getting into trouble.

“You really have to be grounded as a family, because you have 18-year-olds who suddenly walk into a lot of money and think it’s endless,” Fenton said. “It could be $10,000, and for a kid who’s never had $5 in their pocket in their entire life, that $10,000 is an incredible amount. What they don’t realize is that $10,000 is gone, and it’s gone very quickly.”

Bruce Bible, the associate coach at Los Alamitos, cautions against young athletes becoming “all about the NIL.”

“The main thing should be the main thing – academics and sports. NIL is secondary,” he said. He also tries to “temper expectations” because not everyone is going to get a NIL deal.

How college athletes take advantage of the NIL


Bible said Nelson, who has a deal with a Los Angeles-area hospitality group founded by a former USC member, is a perfect example of what drives the NIL.

“It’s not based on what school he’s going to. It’s based on him and what he does in his career and how marketable he is,” Bible said.

“This is the wave of the future and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger,” he added. “Can you imagine LeBron James in high school today, what would that be like?”

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