The NCAA’s top prospects, McDonald’s All-Americans, agree that college athletes should be paid

Cameron Smith

The legacy of Ed O’Bannon and his pending lawsuit against the NCAA is alive and well with the next generation of college hoops stars … even if they aren’t entirely sure who Ed O’Bannon is.

Noah Vonleh, a top prospect who believes NCAA stars should be paid —

In a series of interviews with athletes at the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago, ChicagoSide writer Daniel Lidbit asked each future college athlete whether they thought they deserved to be paid for competing at the Division I level. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that more than half of them believe they deserve to be compensated in some form or fashion for competing in collegiate athletics.

Specifically, Arkansas commit Bobby Portis Jr., future Washington Husky Nigel Williams-Goss, Arizona signee Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Indiana Hoosiers commit Noah Vonleh, Kansas signee Wayne Selden Jr. and Duke signee Matt Jones all agreed that athletes deserve to be compensated in some form, whether those funds come from schools for their participation or from sponsors, who could use the student basketball players as celebrity endorsers.

Naturally, that’s where O’Bannon comes in. As has been extensively chronicled here at Yahoo! and elsewhere, a lawsuit filed by O’Bannon seeking restitution for the use of his image after his graduation from UCLA may pose a greater threat to the NCAA’s functional existence than anything else. While O’Bannon’s case focuses on the rights that players maintain after they graduate, the case was enjoined with a second case against the NCAA filed by former Arizona quarterback Sam Keller That case, Keller v. NCAA, seeks compensation for the use of athletes’ likeness and image even during their collegiate years, essentially expanding the scope of the O’Bannon suit, whether the former Bruins star wants to or not.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that there is a legitimate chance that the NCAA may have to give up the ghost and begin compensating athletes in the future, or relax the existing amateurism standards.

Clearly, most of the next crop of top Division I recruits are fine with a final outcome of getting paid, no matter how they eventually get to that point.

“If they came to me and said you can get paid, I’d be happy,” Jones told Chicago Side. “Who would deny something like that? The fact that they haven’t done it I really don’t know what to say about it. If they changed it, I’d be all for it. I’d probably be the first one to ask Coach K where the money is at.”

Added Vonleh: “I think it is crazy. I think they should pay the players because they are going out there, working hard for the school, risking their body. And if they get hurt, it is over for them.

“If a few more players get hurt, like Nerlens [Noel at Kentucky] or Kevin Ware, if a few more players get hurt, I think they are going to bring up something and the players will end up getting paid.”

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