Okafor has deal with College Sports Network

Updated: May 4, 2004, 5:31 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- A month after leading Connecticut to an NCAA championship, Emeka Okafor has the first endorsement deal of his impending professional basketball career.

The College Sports Television Network introduced Okafor as its new celebrity spokesman on Tuesday during a national cable television convention in New Orleans.

Okafor and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, said it was a multiyear deal but declined to get into specifics about its length or the money involved. Brian Bedol, president of the year-old network, also declined to get into specifics other than to call it "a significant investment for us."

"This isn't something he's doing for the money, he'll make plenty of money over his professional career," Bedol said. "He believes in what we're doing."

Okafor will graduate this weekend with a degree in finance and a nearly 3.8 grade-point average after three years of college.

"I just like the whole idea -- having a channel committed to college sports and being a student-athlete," Okafor said, adding that he was friendly with student athletes in other sports and would be glad to help them get more exposure.

"I like the fact this channel will encompass a lot of sports, sports that might not get that much coverage on other channels. They can get the proper attention."

Okafor has had a busy month since UConn's triumph over Georgia Tech in the national title game April 5. He went from ringing the opening bell on Wall Street to attending the Wooden Award ceremony in Los Angeles. He was a finalist for the award, won by Saint Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson.

"It seems like I've been around the world and back three times over," Okafor said.

Okafor said he is not concerned with whether he's the No. 1 overall pick and would look forward to playing for whichever team takes him.

"I think I'd be fortunate enough just to be able to play in that league," he said.

Okafor said staying in college an additional year likely improved his draft status, but that was not why he did it.

"I had one more year to graduation ... I knew the (NCAA) national championship was within my reach,'' Okafor said. "It was just the best time of my life. It's never going to come again and I wanted to have another year just to soak it all in."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press