Naas Cunningham Q&A


Credit: Overtime Elite

Overtime Elite (OTE) is in its second year and features a roster of 20 returning athletes and 10 new players. This season, OTE is composed of a rebrand of three new teams in the City Reapers, Cold Hearts, and YNG Dreamerz in addition to the inclusion of Hillcrest Prep Bruins, Our Savior Lutheran Falcons, and Word of God Holy Rams. Besides basketball development, the league has distinguished itself by developing a platform for its athletes to receive training in education, economic empowerment, life skills instruction, and personal branding. Based in Atlanta, OTE houses a state-of-the-art facility and boosts an experienced front office and coaching staff to help some of the world’s top prospects build successful careers on-and-off the court. 

 

A five-star recruit in the high school class of 2024, Naasir Cunningham became the first player in league history to sign with OTE under the scholarship option last spring, which allowed him to maintain his college eligibility while profiting off of his name, image, and likeness. As a sophomore at Gill St. Bernard’s (NJ) in 2021-22, Cunningham averaged 13.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1 block per game. Standing at 6’7”, the New Jersey native possesses significant upside as a shot creator and scorer with length, positional size, and fluidity. Drafted to play on YNG Dreamerz for this season, Cunningham joins the likes of Stanford commit Kanaan Carlyle, ‘23 draft eligible Jazian Gortman, and ‘24 draft eligible Bryson Warren among many others, with the goal to be crowned Season 2’s OTE Champions.

 

As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Cunningham highlighted his multi-sport background, his decision to join OTE on the scholarship option and growth off-the-court, his interest in camera work and fishing, and much more.

 

For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Overtime Elite’s Naasir Cunningham, from West Orange, New Jersey:


Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today? Talk a bit about your background and family.


Naasir Cunningham: I was raised in West Orange, New Jersey. Started playing basketball, organized basketball like in second grade. My dad let me test out all the sports, really see what I was into, and basketball really stuck with me and he's just been there helping me every step of the way since I've been playing, so yeah. 


PI: Any other athletes in the family?


NC: Nothing crazy, not like professionals, but my dad used to play football in high school. My sisters played basketball growing up. I mean, we were all athletic, so it ran through the family. 


PI: What other sports did you play growing up?


NC: I was good at baseball and soccer, but if I had to pick one, I'd probably pick soccer. 


PI: Has anything you learned in soccer translated into basketball?


NC: At that young of age, I wasn't really paying attention to that type of stuff, but I feel like practicing soccer skills with my coaches and my father kind of did make it easier to pick up for basketball 'cause they both involve a lot of footwork. 


PI: When did you primarily start to focus on basketball? 


NC: I wanna say third grade. That's when I started traveling for AAU and I think my parents and coaches really realized like he has some potential in him. 


PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and playstyle?


NC: I would say I'm a big guard. I'm able to move quickly. I’m fast on my feet. I have a great jump shot for somebody my size. I'm working on my ball handling, transitioning, passing the ball, getting my teammates involved, becoming more of a real guard instead of just a scorer, so yeah. 


PI: Who do you model your game after or study on film?


NC: I like to watch players like Jayson Tatum, Paul George, and Kevin Durant. Those are most of the people my trainer has me watch film on. 


PI: Do you have a specific training regimen? 


NC: Normally when I'm on the court, it's a lot of shooting, making sure my handles are tight — that's something I'm working on improving. And really just game situation reps like every rep I do gotta be game speed, otherwise it's not gonna translate. And then outside of that, I'm lifting everyday with my strength coach here [at OTE], trying to get stronger, put on more muscle mass, just trying to improve myself. 


PI: Do you have a specific weight goal you want to achieve?


NC: By the end of the year, I want to be at least 195 [pounds], around that weight. 


PI: We enjoyed watching you in New Orleans and Colorado Springs with USA Basketball — what was the biggest takeaway from your USAB experience this year?


NC: Really just always being around high level players and it really prepares you for the next level, 'cause at the next level you're not always gonna be the star player, so you gotta learn how to play without the ball or play with other good players. 


PI: Who was the toughest individual matchup or guys that stood out to you?


NC: I mean, everybody out there was really great. I mean, there was no like one player that stood out to me. I feel like we all were competing at a high level and it was a great experience. 


PI: Congratulations on being the first player in league history to sign OTE’s scholarship option. What were the deciding factors when making this choice?


NC: Really just the resources they have here. The facilities are amazing, the equipment here…and then on top of that, I'm still getting a regular education like I would at any other high school. So I mean it was really everything that I could wish for all in one so and then on top of that, being able to keep my eligibility, still being able to go to college. So I mean, there were a lot of factors that really helped my family and I make this decision and I feel like it was the right choice. 


PI: What has been the most memorable or funny moment during your time at OTE so far?


NC: I feel like every day here something funny and memorable happens (laughs). Like there's a lot of things really, like some of the content stuff that they have us doing, like the question of the day and then being able to compete 5-on-5, 3-on-3, every day is something new. 


PI: What is the biggest lesson you have learned off-the-court at OTE so far?


NC: I want to say being here has helped me mature. I feel like it puts a lot of responsibilities on me. One, living without my parents. That's a lot of responsibility, and then being on time. Like when you are not on time here, there's consequences and you don't want to face those consequences. So it's really like teaching everybody to show up on time, be where you gotta be, and helping us all mature. 


PI: That’s excellent. Of course, developing you guys as leaders as well. How would you describe yourself as a leader? What type of leader are you? 


NC: I think as I get older, I'm becoming more of a vocal leader, but like in my earlier days growing up, I felt like I led by example 'cause most of the time being the most talented player on the court, you know, I know that if I do something, my team is gonna follow. So I always try to do the right things, make sure I'm sending the right example for my teammates and the people around me. 


PI: Is there increased pressure that comes with being nationally ranked?


NC: I mean, the rankings are cool. They make you feel good, but I feel like I don't really try to pay attention to that stuff. It becomes a distraction for some people and right now I have a long way to go before I'm where I want to be so I gotta focus on what's ahead of me right now and that's taking care of business on the court and in the classroom.


PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?


NC: I hope we win the championship here [with YNG Dreamerz]. I want to be the best version of myself I can this year. And really just work my hardest every day, make sure I make the most out of this opportunity. 


PI: How do you see your role at the next level? 


NC: I feel like I should be really just a leader, a leader on the court. Making sure my team is going. Like one of the main players on the team. Really just making sure that everybody around me is getting better. 


PI: In terms of your recruitment, who have you been hearing from the most, lately?


NC: There's a lot of schools that are showing a lot of love, a lot of schools that I hear from. I hear from Texas a lot. Arkansas, Duke, Kansas, and a couple other schools as well. 


PI: Which schools are you hoping to visit in the near future? 


NC: Well, there's a lot of schools I want to visit, like almost all my offers 'cause I just want to give everybody a chance, see what really is the best fit for me. 


PI: ​​Which college coach would you say you’ve formed the closest relationship with and why?


NC: I mean, my recruitment only started a couple months ago. I feel like there's a lot of coaches that I'm still building my relationship with and I feel like as the year progresses, there's gonna be some coaches that continue to push and some coaches that have other options, but right now I feel like there's a lot of coaches. We're all still building our relationship. 


PI: What will ultimately be your deciding factors when making your choice?


NC: Really just a home environment. I want to feel welcomed. I want to feel loved. Good coaching staff, good team to play with. And then the academics, I wanna make sure I got something to fall back on if something doesn't go my way. So really just a good balance of both academics and athletics. 


PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?


NC: I like to play video games, but I'm really interested in camera work, like making mixtapes and stuff like that. Like that's something I really want to look into. I just never had the time. 


PI: What aspect of camera work interests you? Is it basketball mixtapes or film work like short films and movies?


NC: Nah, I wouldn't say movies and all that, like basketball mixtapes, but I definitely do have the resources here at Overtime to look into that and I'm definitely going to utilize that. 

 

PI: Who are your favorite music artists?


NC: I listen to a lot of underground rappers, but mainstream, I'd probably say Polo G.


PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?


NC: #Rare. I feel like there's not a lot of people that have the same personality as me. I feel like I'm just different. 


PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?


NC: My phone. Probably the game, my PlayStation, and a basketball. 


PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?


NC: Probably something with sports. Either sports medicine, be a trainer or a coach. 


PI: Who is the funniest guy at OTE?


NC: Wow, there's a lot. I'd probably say either Big Nate [Missia-Dio] or Tyler Bey. 


PI: Who has the best drip?


NC: I don’t know. I ain’t seen that many outfits, yet. Nobody has impressed me. 


PI: Who has the coolest car?


NC: Probably ZZ [Clark].


PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?


NC: Oh, I'll be in my room chilling and then some of my teammates will come in. I’ll unlock the door, let them in. Then they'll leave my room and just leave my door open. Like I hate that. And then I gotta yell at them to come back and close my door. That's probably one of my biggest pet peeves. 


PI: Are you an introvert or extrovert?


NC: Ah, it depends on my mood. There will be some days I sit in my room all day. And then there's some days I'm like asking everybody, “what y’all tryna do today?” So it really just depends on how I'm feeling. 


PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’


NC: Completing tasks in which I am satisfied. 


PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 


NC: Probably “keep shooting” from one of my coaches. But I feel like that has many meanings, not just literally basketball. Like in general if you try at something and you mess up, try again. Just keep trying, like don't give up. 


PI: What is your dream NIL deal and why? 


NC: I don’t know. That's not something I really think about. I'd have to think about that one. Yeah, I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. 


PI: What is the biggest misconception people have about you?


NC: I feel like when people see me on the court late, my court persona doesn't match my off the court personality. I feel like people would be surprised if they would just spend the day with me. 

 

PI: Would you say you’re a killer on the court, but you’re chill off the court? 

 

NC: Yeah, I'm chill. I like to have fun and I’m energetic. 


PI: Besides the NBA, where do you see yourself in five years?


NC: I want to start fishing. I see myself fishing in my free time and playing tennis. 

 

PI: Any guys at OTE you fish with?

 

NC: Nah, I went fishing with a couple of my boys back in Jersey, but that's about it. 


PI: Name four words that best describe you.


NC: Positive, chill, serious, and fun.


PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?


NC: As a player, I just want to be remembered as somebody that always pushed his team to go hard, always there for his teammates and always working hard. And then as a person, really just somebody that everybody always wanted to be around. Good vibes. Just always in a good mood.

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