Mikey Williams plays college basketball?
As the 2023 five-star rookie and social media phenom wraps up his junior season at Charlotte’s Vertical Academy, it’s looking more and more like a possibility — despite some lucrative professional options.
The latest clue came on Sunday, when national high school basketball insider Samad Hines reported that Williams, 17, would stay at Vertical Academy, an independent start-up, for his 2022-23 senior season.
Williams and his father also confirmed that schedule — as well as his current plan to play a college basketball season in 2023-24 and then enter the 2024 NBA Draft — in separate interviews earlier this year.
“He’s definitely going to college,” Mahlon Williams, Mikey’s father, told the Charlotte Observer in February. “He and I had a very long discussion about this a few days ago. Every six months or so we sort of assess where we are and he wants to be part of the university environment.
Asked about playing in college, Williams added: “That’s the plan right now. It’s a path (to the NBA) that I wouldn’t say guaranteed, but I have a good chance it will lead to the next level after this.
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Why is Williams important to stay at Vertical Academy? This essentially paves the way for his college eligibility: something Williams wouldn’t have if he joined, say, the Overtime Elite league, which offers high school recruits a minimum salary of $100,000 to join its european style basketball academy.
As detailed in March by Sports Illustrated, high school players who join Overtime Elite lose their college eligibility entirely under current NCAA rules because the program pays them for their work product as opposed to exclusively on their behalf. image and likeness (which the NCAA began allowing last year).
Future developments at NIL could make that moot, SI reported, but the distinction remains relevant for 2023 recruits such as Williams, who his father said was approached by Overtime Elite.
Staying at Vertical Academy puts Williams on the following schedule: playing his senior high school season in 2022-23, playing a college basketball season in 2023-24, and entering his name in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Plans are fluid and this intermediate step can always change. But Williams and his father reiterated his interest in playing a season of college basketball — as opposed to a paid year overseas or with the NBA-backed G League postgraduate team Ignite or Overtime Elite or another option – for over a year now.
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As for where? That remains to be determined. Williams released an initial top-10 list after his freshman season that included Arizona State, Kansas, Memphis, San Diego State, Southern Cal and five HBCUs: Alabama State, North Carolina Central, Durham-based, Hampton , Tennessee State and Texas Southern.
But he reopened his recruitment in full last summer to get a better idea of his options and has yet to release any new finalists. Williams made an unofficial visit to Southern Cal in February (he came to California and played his freshman year in San Diego) and picked up some buzz on NC Central on On3.
“He has a couple of HBCUs on his roster and so that will always be a possibility for him,” Mahlon Williams told the Observer of his son. “He also has mid majors and high majors.”
Williams ranks as the No. 1 junior in North Carolina, the No. 3 combo guard in his class and the No. 15 rookie in his class, according to composite ratings from 247Sports. He averaged 23 points, six assists and 4.5 rebounds per game as a junior for Vertical Academy, which played in showcase tournaments across the country.
Williams is also a social media star with a combined 5.9 million followers on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Last year, he became the first high school athlete to sign a NIL deal with top sports marketing agency, Excel Sports Management, and global footwear brand, PUMA. Williams has a NIL valuation of $2.6 million, second among all high school and college athletes, according to the new On3 NIL 100.