Isaiah Wong wants a better deal, and he was willing to walk from Miami to get it.
The Hurricanes guard said he planned to enter the transfer portal on Friday, unless his name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation isn’t increased, his agent told ESPN on Thursday night.
Wong, the team’s second-leading scorer and a two-time all-ACC player, is fresh off leading Miami to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history. He declared for the NBA draft this week, but hasn’t committed to turning pro.
“If Isaiah and his family don’t feel that the NIL number meets their expectations they will be entering the transfer portal tomorrow while maintaining his eligibility in the NBA draft and going through the draft process,” his agent, Adam Papas, told ESPN.
“Isaiah would like to stay in Miami. He had a great season leading his team to the Elite Eight. He has seen what incoming Miami Hurricane basketball players are getting in NIL and would like his NIL to reflect that he was a team leader of an Elite Eight team.”
Though there are countless athletes across the country with NIL deals, Wong is one of, if not the first to publicly threaten to transfer solely over his current endorsement deal. The situation provides one of the first real tests of the new NIL system throughout the NCAA.
Wong eventually said he wouldn't transfer, and kept his current NIL deal in place. He said some statements were "made without any authorization on my behalf," and that he wanted to "clarify my intensions and resolve any misunderstandings."
Why did Isaiah Wong want a new NIL deal?
Wong averaged 15.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting a career-high 45.2% from the field last season, his third with the Hurricanes.
It’s unclear what his current NIL deal is. Schools are not allowed to be involved in NIL deals under Florida state law, and neither Wong nor Papas are dealing with the Hurricanes directly.
Part of the issue, apparently, is that Papas said he’s negotiated bigger deals for other clients. He said he landed a two-year, $800,000 deal and a car for Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack, who recently committed to Miami, per ESPN. That deal was funded by billionaire John Ruiz, the LifeWallet and Cigarette Racing founder who has been funding dozens of deals for Miami athletes in recent months.
So far, Ruiz has signed 61 Hurricanes players to NIL deals, and he has another 48 that are currently pending, according to The Miami Herald. Ruiz told the newspaper that he allocated about $10 million to spend on student-athletes in an effort to help his former school win across the board.
"It's a unique situation just completing Nijel Pack's deal with Miami," Papas said, via ESPN. "Understanding what John Ruiz is trying to do with the NIL space and the city of Miami, we feel the value of Isaiah Wong should meet or exceed the value of an incoming transfer."
While the transfer threat is real, Ruiz initially said he wasn’t going to budge.
"Isaiah is under contract," Ruiz said in a text message to ESPN. "He has been treated by LifeWallet exceptionally well. If that is what he decides, I wish him well, however, I DO NOT renegotiate! I cannot disclose the amount, but what I can say is that he was treated very fairly."