With Overtime Elite’s launch now less than three months away, the new basketball league and development program for high school-aged players has brought in former Turner Sports exec Mark Johnson to serve as OTE’s executive vice president of business operations.
Johnson will help OTE commissioner Aaron Ryan get the project off the ground, playing a role in the company’s facility operations, strategy decisions and budget efforts. “We’re going to focus on: How do we grow quickly?” Johnson said in an interview. “We’ve got to get it up and launched, but then quickly move toward a growth plan.” Among the items on OTE’s summer agenda are developing a new facility in Atlanta and establishing a distribution plan for the league’s first months.
“This will definitely evolve pretty quickly from year one to year two—maybe even from the first four-to-six months to the second four-to-six months,” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to learn a lot.”
OTE has already announced deals with a number of players, including the No. 3 national prospect in the Class of 2023, Matt Bewley. He and his twin brother, Ryan, signed two-year contracts worth seven figures each, according to ESPN. Overtime raised $80 million earlier this year to launch OTE, which aims to recruit 20-30 players, who would sacrifice high school and NCAA eligibility to join the program. Former Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has since come on as coach and director of player development.
Part of Johnson’s responsibility will be empowering the Bewleys and OTE’s other players to generate their own businesses as well, as teenagers around the country begin commercializing their names, images and likenesses in new ways. “I don’t think any of us are going to figure it all out for years to come,” Johnson said of the NIL opportunities in front of players. “We want to make sure we do it right.”
Johnson was previously Turner Sports’ senior vice president of digital, which included overseeing NBA Digital properties, like League Pass, and NCAA Digital platforms, like March Madness Live. Now, at a startup endeavoring to be both a media company and a sports league, “we’ll be exposed to every single vendor in tech you could imagine,” Johnson said. “That will give us some advantages to pick the best tech and partners in that space.”
“We want to make sure this is the launch that [Overtime founders Dan Porter and Zack Weiner] envisioned six months ago,” Johnson said. “And honestly for the players and their families, they’re making a massive commitment to join OTE, and we want to make sure this launch is a launch that hits their expectations.”