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Jalen Lewis, 16 and a Cal Recruiting Target, Makes History by Turning Professional

The Bishop O'Dowd High rising junior reportedly signs $1 million deal with Overtime Elite.

Oakland teen-ager Jalen Lewis made history Friday as the youngest U.S. basketball prospect ever to sign a professional contract.

And in the process, the Bishop O’Dowd High School rising junior eliminated any chance that he might eventually play at Cal.

Lewis, 16, signed a multi-year contract worth more than $1 million, according to The Athletic, and will play in the fledgling Overtime Elite program beginning in September.

Rated as the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2023 by ESPN, the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder was being pursued by the likes of Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Michigan.

But Cal coach Mark Fox, who has O’Dowd graduates Monty Bowser and Marsalis Roberson on his 2021-22 roster, has recruited Lewis the past two years, according to O’Dowd coach Lou Richie.

Richie said had Lewis completed high school and opted to play in college that Cal had a legit chance of signing him.

"Oh yeah, without a doubt,” Richie said. “I know Ali (Lewis, Jalen’s father) had some great conversations with Mark Fox, some long conversations.”

.Jalen Lewis tweets his commitment to OTE:

It’s all moot now. Lewis is a professional and no longer eligible to play in high school or college.

Richie said he got feedback all day Friday, including some from naysayers questioning the decision Lewis and his family made. Richie offered some reasoned pushback on that.

He compared the giant leap Lewis is making to Neil Armstrong being the first man to walk on the moon, but with a twist.

“There’s a racial component to this. ‘Why is this kid doing this? He’s throwing his life away’ ” Richie said. "If he’s a tennis player, they don’t say that. If he’s a movie actor, they don’t say that.

“Anytime you do something first people criticize. But they took the time to do their due diligence. He’s a great student. He’ll get a college degree someday. It’s not a question of if, but when.”

And while this decision is unprecedented in the U.S., top international players often sign with professional clubs during their teen-age years. NBA sensation Luka Doncic, for instance, signed with the youth academy of Real Madrid when he was 16. Still just 22, Doncic averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists with the Dallas Mavericks this season, his third in the NBA.

Richie said he actually has “grieved” losing the chance to coach Lewis for two more years and pursue the team’s goal of winning a state championship.

“But 110 percent I support this kid and his family in his pursuit in his dream,” Richie said. 

Jalen Lewis in action:

Long-time sports agent Aaron Goodwin, who once represented Jason Kidd, has served as an adviser to the Lewis family, The Athletic reported.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Jalen and his family. The Overtime Elite Professional League provides another pathway for top prospects," Goodwin said. ”OTE presents young athletes with a true partnership and the opportunity to immediately benefit from the business side of the game."

Lewis is the highest-rated prospect to sign with Overtime Elite, which was formed in March. According to The Athletic, OTE is backed by sports media company Overtime, and promises high school athletes at last $100,000 a year to play in its league.

Their intention is to sign about 30 of the country top young talents. Players reportedly will receive health and disability insurance, and those who don’t wind up playing in establish professional league will have up to $100,000 of their college tuition covered.

Overtime Elite announced in May it is building a 103,000-square-foot complex in Atlanta where prep players will train, study and compete.

More video of Jalen Lewis on the court:

Richie said he had no first-hand knowledge of the financial terms of Lewis’ deal, just what he saw on social media.

“I know for Jalen not to go to college or continue high school it was going to take an astronomical number he couldn’t say no to,” Richie said.

OTE previously announced the signings of five-star prospects Amen and Ausar Thompson in the Class of 2022 and Matthew and Ryan Bewley in the Class of 2023, as well as projected 2022 top-20 draft pick Jean Montero from Spain. The Thompson twins play in Florida, but Richie said their mother lives in Oakland.

The OTE squad will be coached by former UConn player and coach Kevin Ollie and is expected to play against high-level prep school teams and overseas.

Under current NBA rules, Lewis would not be eligible to play in the NBA until he is a year out of high school or 19 years old, which would mean not being drafted until 2024. Those rules face scrutiny and could change.

Either way, Richie has no doubt Lewis has a bright future in the NBA.

“He’s 16 years old, wears size 17 shoes, weighs 235. He can shoot the basketball, he can dribble he basketball, he can pass the basketball,” Richie said. “He can be as good as he wants to be. That’s the key now that he’s a pro.”

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo