LeBron Lopez became the latest Filipino cager to take his act overseas after signing with the Overtime Elite, a newly-formed professional league in the United States for ages 16 to 18 years old.
Overtime Elite made the announcement Tuesday, July 13 almost a month after the 18-year-old Lopez made his senior national team debut for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers against Indonesia.
The new league describes itself as a “transformative new sports league that offers the world’s most talented young basketball players a better pathway to becoming professional athletes.”
“We’re delighted to have Lebron join the OTE family as we expand our international reach, bringing in top talent from across the globe,” said Brandon Williams who is OTE’s head of basketball operations.
“Francis (Lopez’s formal name) is a young man who has impressed us with both the combination of pure passion for the game and self-improvement, physical athleticism, work ethic, as well as many leadership intangibles. He’s the kind of player we want and expect to thrive at OTE.”
Lopez also stands to receive big money for joining the new league which plans to start in September since players stand to receive a minimum salary of $100,000 (P5.02 million), as per previous reports by some US media outlets.
The athletic but raw cager out of Ateneo high school showed some glimpses of the future during his first Gilas appearance last June 18 when he registered eight points and five rebounds in the 76-51 win over Indonesia at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.
Lopez has received good words from OTE coach Kevin Ollie, a former NBA player who guided his alma mater University of Connecticut to the US NCAA Division I championship in 2014.
“Francis is a high-flyer with his ability to play above the rim,” said Ollie. “We’re building a program for him that will develop his game more completely, so that he can achieve his dream of a professional career and as a leader on the Philippines national team for years to come.”
Lopez is the latest amateur to either train or play in the United States, following Kai Sotto, Kobe Paras, Cholo Anonuevo and female cager Jack Animam.
Others have taken the route to Japan to play pro ball like Thirdy Ravena and brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano.