Wizards

What the Wizards' former college stars think about NIL rule

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College sports are undergoing significant change with the new NIL (name, image and likeness) rule, which allows NCAA athletes to utilize their brand to make money on endorsements and the like. There are some restrictions, like schools stipulating their athletes can't promote gambling or alcohol, but it is already leading to big-time money being earned by young men and women in various sports. Some deals have reportedly been worth seven figures.

It's a welcomed change for many current and former college athletes, but the feelings are a bit conflicted for those who just barely missed out on the opportunity. There are a lot of NBA players, for instance, who could have cashed in if they were only a year or two younger and further behind in their basketball journey.

Wizards' 2021 first round pick Corey Kispert could be included there. He played four years at Gonzaga and was one of the stars of their No. 1-ranked 2020-21 team which reached the NCAA Tournament final.

If the NIL rule were in place, it's possible Kispert could have turned his stardom in Spokane, WA into a lucrative business. Or at least a couple of extra dollars.

"I’m so happy for everybody now who gets a fair shake at that. They are going to take advantage of who they are and the position that they’re in," he told NBC Sports Washington.

 

"The timing sucks, you know. That’s about it, that’s the only complaint I have. But I’m really happy and I just hope people go about it wisely and take advantage of the opportunity they are given."

Cassius Winston was drafted by the Wizards in 2020. Before that, he starred at Michigan State University, a major college basketball program with a large and passionate fanbase.

Winston left as one of the best and most revered players in MSU history, which could have potentially made him a good deal of money and, given he was a second round pick and has so far played on a two-way contract, there's no guarantee he will make up for lost time.

"I’m a fan of it. Once they figure it out and clean it up and polish it enough that it makes sense. I feel like these players making money off their name and their brand and off their image, that’s a part of it. That’s a part of this spotlight and that’s what you work for. You work for being able to use your name, that can make not only you but your family money," he told NBC Sports Washington.

Daniel Gafford played two years at the University of Arkansas before going pro. He was a fan favorite and the star of the team. He helped create a lively atmosphere at home games as fans marveled at his acrobatic dunks.

But it's not only endorsements Gafford could have capitalized on. He's an avid gamer and would have loved to have been represented in college basketball video games.

"It’s been a long time coming, I would say, especially since back in the day they had the NCAA games, like college football and college basketball games. Guys would have been able to make money off of that. Now, for them to able to do that, I’m just grateful for it because now they don’t have to go through the process that everybody else went through trying to figure out what to do here, what to do there," Gafford told NBC Sports Washington, referring to NCAA eligibility rules.

And, he pointed out, it puts college athletes in a much better position to handle when the millions come in if they go pro.

"Now, they can actually make money off their name and, if [athletes] want to go professional, whether it’s basketball, track or football; anything. They will already have that experience of bringing money in and how to manage it and how to live with it and do it on a professional level."