Damien Wilkins adds to family legacy as head of Overtime Elite

He now leads a system that seeks to give basketball’s top prospects another avenue to achieve their professional goals. Overtime Elite, now in its first full year since launching in March 2021, gives prospects tools to help them develop their skills, work on their academic goals, and empower them economically.

They began to see returns from their efforts to reverse the traditional path to the NBA. Former overtime team forward Dominick Barlow signed a two-way contract with the Spurs, and guard Jean Montero signed a 10-piece contract with the Knicks.

In the next class of the NBA Draft, Amen and Ausar Thompson are projected lottery picks, while Jazian Gortman is expected to be selected in the second round.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, obviously,” Wilkins said. “But I think there are a number of different things that have happened since we started that let people know we’re not going anywhere. We’re disruptive. Yes. But I think it’s is the plan, to do things differently, in a non-traditional way.

They signed nine players for the upcoming season, including Naasir Cunningham, the No. 1 high school basketball recruit in the Class of 2024. Cunningham has offers from Duke, UCLA and 10 other schools.

The NBA isn’t the only path Overtime Elite has encouraged its signers to pursue.

Emmanuel Maldonado was drafted by the Mets from Guaynabo to the Baloncesto Superior Nacional League in Puerto Rico. He also had eight players graduate from the Overtime Elite Academy in his freshman year and tried to teach them other ways to get involved in basketball.

To do this, they tried to use the experience of Wilkins, who played in the NBA with the Sonics, Thunder, Timberwolves, Hawks, Pistons, 76ers and Pacers. He also served as a regional representative for the National Basketball Players Association for three years, where he supported players with “off-court” resources to help them pursue their respective careers, following his retirement in 2018.

Before his professional career, Wilkins was named a McDonald’s All-American in 1999 before playing basketball at NC State for two years. He then tested the NBA combine waters in 2001, but chose to return to school.

He transferred to Georgia after a coach told him not to return to NC State, and Wilkins said it put a chip on his shoulder. A solid Georgia career, however, ended in controversy as the Bulldogs’ bid for the NCAA Tournament was upended by a dispute between Tony Cole and coach Jim Harrick.

Wilkins has decided to embrace the turbulence, however, and he’s using it to prepare the 30 Overtime Elite players for their future. He hopes his visible role as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations for Overtime Elite can show that there are many ways to be successful in basketball.

“That’s just it,” Wilkins said. ” That’s all for me. Like all of this, the struggles, the demands, the hard work that has to be done, the uncertainty, right?

“They sacrificed a lot. Our first guys gave up their eligibility to come here and be the trailblazers, the guys that helped them, the new wave of guys get the scholarship options, they all sacrificed a lot to be here. So I owe it, we owe it to them to give them everything we have. If that means sometimes our experiences and sharing those things with them to help them go right when they go left, then so be it.

Overtime Elite has the Hawks’ local presence as an example for their young players to look to. They use home game visits and player visits to their advantage and show what success could look like for them.

Following his father’s advice, the young Wilkins urged the Overtime Elite players not to cut ties. He tried to make them understand the importance of nurturing their professional relationships, because they don’t know where it can lead them.

This advice has helped him throughout his career. As Wilkins continues to develop Overtime Elite, it not only adds to the Wilkins family legacy, but also changes the lives of the players they sign.

On Wednesday, Overtime Elite will have its draft in which Wilkins will build three 10-man teams. Elite Overtime will release their schedule on Friday.

“I just want it to keep growing, and I want it to be the hub of professional development,” Wilkins said. “And being in front of that in this city, as a black man. Wow, right? »

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