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Hailey Van Lith is one of the most prolific stars in college basketball and she is joining the most prolific team in the sport. The 21-year-old former five-star guard spent her first three seasons at Louisville, but hit the portal not long after losing in the Sweet Sixteen and transferred to LSU.
Although her move to join the reigning national champions might raise some questions about how it all went down, significant player movement within the modern era has become common place. It also comes with the element of Name, Image and Likeness.
Not only are athletes transferring at a high rate, there is a financial component to the entire process. And it can make things tricky.
Take Hailey Van Lith, for example.
She signed an NIL deal with Adidas while with the Cardinals and was one of the first athletes to partner with the sportswear brand. Louisville athletics are sponsored by Adidas, and wear all Adidas gear, so it was a seamless partnership.
That is not the case in Baton Rouge. The Tigers wear Nike.
Van Lith does not have any sort of NIL agreement with Nike because she signed with Adidas. That could obviously go unsaid, but it’s important to reiterate.
Despite the conflict of interest, for lack of better phrasing, Van Lith will keep her deal with the three stripes while playing for a team that rocks the swoosh. Her agent, Alyssa Romano of Octagon Sports, confirmed that understanding to On3 on Wednesday and pointed to one of her client’s new teammates.
Flau’jae Johnson, LSU’s third-leading scorer in 2022/23, has a partnership with Puma. She wears Nike in all team activities, but wears Puma outside of the court and promotes the brand through social media and other marketing campaigns.
It will be the same for Van Lith. Whenever she is practicing, playing or traveling with the Tigers, she will wear Nike. Otherwise, it’s all Adidas, all of the time.
This is the new reality of the NIL era.
Van Lith is not the only athlete to encounter a situation of this nature, where NIL deals conflict with the school’s sponsoring sportswear brand. It’s becoming more and more common.
Johnson is one example. Stanford golfer Rose Zhang was the first college athlete to sign with Adidas, even though she attends a Nike school.
Bronny James played in the McDonald’s All-American Game, which is sponsored by Adidas. He, like his father, has a shoe deal with Nike.
Mikey Williams, a five-star recruit that was committed to Memphis before being arrested on five charges of assault with a deadly weapon, had an NIL deal with Puma. It doesn’t seem likely that he will make it to college at this point, but he was set to play for a Nike school.
Schools, like LSU, that have specific partnerships with an apparel company, like Nike, and sign a player, like Van Lith, who has a preexisting NIL deal with a competitor, like Adidas, can’t love how things are playing out. It’s not ideal, but the alternative is not signing Van Lith. And that would hurt the program more than having her promote a competitor’s brand online.
This is the new world in which we live!