basketball Edit

Florida Man: Cunningham goes to Overtime Elite League; who's No. 1 in 2023?

Naasir Cunningham
Naasir Cunningham (

Some see the Overtime Elite League as a long overdue avenue for American high school players to make money off their talent. Others see it as a way for top-flight prospects to prepare for the next level. There are those that think it’s destined to fail and others that are absolutely sure it’s hurting player development. Whatever the case, though, one of the project's goals was always to be disruptive in the basketball world.

There’s no denying it has done that.

Previously, the league has forced us here at Rivals to remove prospects from the rankings, as we only rank college prospects, not professionals. But OTE is nothing if not malleable, which leads us to this week.

On Monday, the organization provided the current No. 1 prospect in the class of 2024 with the opportunity to straddle the line between amateur and professional by signing Naasir Cunningham but allowing him to forgo a salary. This, of course, preserves Cunningham’s college eligibility while still allowing the budding star to earn money from NIL opportunities, which the league helps facilitate.


More: Ranking the Contenders for five-star Ronald Holland | Five-star Trentyn Flowers evaluating all options

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Rivals150

2024 Rankings: Top 40



Just like that, OTE had its next innovation and Rivals had its next rankings quandary. In the end, our ruling is simple. As long as Cunningham remains a recruitable college athlete, he’ll stay in the rankings and be compared and contrasted with other players in his graduating class.

Signing Cunningham is a big deal, sure, and others will almost certainly follow in his footsteps. The larger story, however, is the larger trajectory of OTE – a one-of-a-kind organization that seems to be nothing and everything all at once. It’s a reality show that is also a high-level basketball league. It’s a viral media company but also a platform for young athletes. It’s a place for players to go pro and earn six-figure salaries but also a league for prospects to polish themselves against other elite players while preserving their college eligibility.

The strength of OTE is its refusal to commit to being any one thing. Its value is in its versatility, and its identity crisis is a feature, not a bug. By never painting itself into a corner the league leaves itself room to be whatever players want it to be, which feels smart when you consider attracting talent with college or NBA futures is the way to drive interest. Mainstream basketball fans don’t much care about high schoolers playing basketball at an impressive facility in Atlanta, but things change when said high schoolers are a year or two away from signing with their favorite college or NBA teams.

The future of OTE is unclear. Its sustainability remains debatable and the long-term economic model still seems a little risky. What’s crystal clear, however, is that it’s not finished disrupting the recruiting world. So, while few people can accurately summarize what Overtime Elite is or which niche it fills, whatever it is seems much bigger than the underdog pro league for high schoolers it was painted as being a year ago.



GG Jackson
GG Jackson (Nick Lucero/

During a week that saw the No. 1 prospect in 2024 make news by signing with Overtime Elite feels like the perfect time to check in on the top spot in 2023, which seems to once again be up for grabs. A handful of prospects are making their cases on the grassroots circuit, and we explore a couple of the candidates below.

GG JACKSON: Current ranking: No. 1

Why he could be the man: Jackson occupies the top spot as things stand and you can see the potential oozing from him even if he hasn't dominated every game in the grassroots circuit thus far. That said, there are very few players in this class that can come anywhere near matching his blend of skill, size and agility. Jackson handles the ball well, shoots it rather consistently and gets to the bucket when he decides he needs to do so. He’s becoming a much more motivated rebounder and is averaging 10.5 boards per game through two Nike EYBL sessions. This is notable because Jackson didn’t always give full effort on the glass a year ago. He hasn’t looked perfect, but he’s progressing rather nicely and comes with both a high floor and ceiling.

MACKENZIE MGBAKO: Current ranking: No. 2

Why he could be the man: A bet on Mgbako is a bet on upside, as his blend of body type and athleticism is special. He might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class. So if the name of the game is projecting prospects as NBA players, Mgbako has a strong case for being No. 1. He’s averaging 21 points per game in the Nike EYBL so far, and seems to have become more assertive with the ball in his hands. He battles some consistency issues on the glass and defensive end, but when he shows his full skill set it is awe inspiring. Mgbako has the gifts to seize the top spot down the road. That much is clear.

DJ WAGNER: Current ranking: No. 3

Why he could be the man: Wagner has already been No. 1 once and dropped a couple spots in the last update based mostly on inconsistency against top-flight teams this high school season. He’s looked much more reliable in high-profile matchups so far this spring and has done plenty to put to rest doubts about his ability to consistently shine on a floor full of stars. The bottom line is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to nitpick the talented wing. He’ll need to become more composed on the floor and eliminate some silly mental lapses, but his potential is turning into consistent dominance quite nicely. It’s easy to make a case for Wagner reclaiming the top spot.

JUSTIN EDWARDS: Current ranking: No. 8

Why he could be the man: Edwards is the underdog in all this, but his play of late has been impressive enough to insert him into the conversation. He’s almost a lock to break into the top five, and the way he is improving with each passing month gives him a chance to steal the No. 1 spot down the road. He’s impressed during the grassroots season thus far and has become a priority for major programs spanning time zones. Edwards probably needs to become a more motivated and disciplined defender before he’s ready to seize the No. 1 ranking, but he’s one to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. The potential is there.