As we start to think about next basketball season, incoming freshmen, transfers, and tournament breakout stars are poised to make the most of their NIL rights.
The dust has barely settled from South Carolina’s run of dominance through the 2022 women’s NCAA Tournament and Kansas’s all-time comeback for the men’s title, but it’s already time to start thinking about next year. On the men’s side, Arkansas is a trendy early pick to go all the way in 2023, and many expect South Carolina and UConn to meet in the women’s title game for the second year in a row.
But what about the players? As we enter the second season of the name, image, and likeness era, a new group of players is poised to either start earning money or increase their earnings dramatically. Here are a few to keep an eye on headed into next year.
Lauren Betts, Stanford freshman
Agency: Excel Sports
Current deal: Degree
The No. 1 women’s recruit in the country should have plenty of NIL opportunities based on hype alone. But Betts is so much more than a highly touted prospect. At 6’7, she’s poised to be one of the tallest players in women’s college basketball next year and will play a critical role on a team that went to the 2022 Final Four and won the 2021 national championship.
When brands look to Betts, they’ll see two things. The first is a polished game that often takes centers much longer to develop. Her footwork, touch, and decision-making are far ahead of schedule, meaning that if she stays healthy, it’s pretty clear what Betts’ ceiling can be. The other thing is that she’s going to Stanford — a women’s basketball power with a loyal fanbase and already with a track record of players succeeding in the NIL era.
RJ Davis, North Carolina junior
Agency: MK Hustle Sports & Entertainment
Deals: Card Stock Exchange, Th3 NIL Shop, NIL Fan Box
The next few weeks will determine exactly where North Carolina will be projected in next season’s preseason polls as we await NBA decisions from Caleb Love and Armando Bacot. But the Tar Heels should be a factor regardless, and Davis should be able to use his big NCAA Tournament to further establish himself on the NIL market.
Davis scored 30 in UNC’s upset win over Baylor in the second round thanks to his 5-of-10 shooting from three. In the championship game, he struggled from the field but still managed a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double. His momentum should carry into next year with a bigger role on a team with higher expectations compared to where Carolina started this tournament.
As a sophomore, Davis did everything he needed to set himself up for success: signing with an agency, doing a few smaller deals, and staying consistent on the court. As an upperclassman, he can shine even brighter.
Dereck Lively, Duke freshman
Agency: KLUTCH Sports Group
Similar to Betts, Lively will have plenty of opportunities simply by being the No. 1 recruit in the country headed to a blue blood school. Unlike Betts, however, he’s also just a year away from being a multi-millionaire, as he will be eligible to go pro after the 2022-23 season. One could expect big names to try and align with him early, much like they lined up for Paolo Banchero this season.
A potential wrinkle to watch out for — really for any college athlete, but Lively in particular — how will shoe companies handle next season? That was one of the burning questions at the onset of NIL last July, and they were reluctant to dive right in immediately. But this year we saw Nike sign Reilyn Turner and adidas launch a program to benefit all of its college athletes. With the floodgates open, the KLUTCH-represented Lively, who plays at one of the Swoosh’s staple programs, would be an attractive candidate for a major Nike deal.
Jaelin Llewellyn, Grad student
Llewellyn is currently one of the best players in the transfer portal, and the former Princeton Tiger will have his pick of prominent schools to choose from. He’s reportedly already heard from Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio State, and others, meaning his visibility is about to rise dramatically.
The all-Ivy selection from last year averaged 15.7 points per game and showed the ability to catch fire from three, which is a key ingredient in winning over a fanbase. Llewellyn hasn’t done much in the NIL arena yet, but stay tuned. He has one year of eligibility left and will be headed to a major program where he can get as much playing time as possible before beginning a pro career.
Olivia Miles, Notre Dame sophomore
Miles was quiet on the NIL front as a freshman, but her game spoke volumes. She was great all year, leading the ACC in assists per game and posting her first triple-double on Dec. 8. But it wasn’t until the NCAA Tournament that Miles really got onto the national radar. It started with a triple-double in the Irish’s first-round win over UMass. That made her the first freshman in the history of the women’s and men’s tournaments to notch a triple-double in a tournament game. She then proceeded to dish out 12 assists in a second-round blowout against Oklahoma and score 21 points in the Sweet 16 against NC State as the Irish nearly pulled off the upset.
As a sophomore, Miles has All-American potential for a Notre Dame team that exceeded expectations last year and has top-10 potential next year.
Ayanna Patterson, UConn freshman
Patterson isn’t the top-ranked women’s recruit in 2022, but she may be the most exciting. She’s athletic as they come, and her popularity has soared as a high school student thanks to her highlight videos and two-handed dunks. Patterson told Just Women’s Sports that she wants to dunk in a game for the Huskies (she’d be the first to do so in program history) and, more importantly, win four national championships.
Patterson also has a grasp on exactly who she is and why she is important to women’s basketball. She doesn’t shy away from her size, strength, hairstyle, or anything that might inspire social media trolls to attack. She also knows that NIL deals have disproportionately gone to white student-athletes and, as she told JWS, is hoping that changes.