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Deja Kelly sheds light on NIL through new podcast, "NILosophy"

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UNC senior guard Deja Kelly (25) makes her entrance at the ‘Live Action with Carolina Basketball’ event on Oct. 13, 2023, at the Dean E. Smith Center.

Deja Kelly's name isn't just synonymous with basketball.

She frequently collaborates with big-name brands like Forever 21, Dunkin' Donuts and Crocs, serving as a face of NIL amongst UNC athletes. Now, she's using that background in her own podcast, "NILosophy." Kelly launched the podcast in August as a collaboration with ByUs Media. In each episode, she brings on athletes for one-on- discussions surrounding their experience with NIL.  

"It's huge," Kelly said. "Just being able to be a businesswoman and really locking into the business side as well as also keeping basketball and school as my top priority because I know that's what brings the money in."

Each episode is uniquely structured to the individual guest. Kelly and her guests frequently discuss topics including family, values and overall sport and life balance, which all relate back to individual financial opportunities and NIL. 

Olivia Hancock, co-founder and head of operations of ByUs media, was looking to create a student athlete-led podcast. In search of “NIL trailblazers”, Hancock and her counterpart, Chris Borland, had Kelly at the top of their list of prospects. 

“We felt like we wanted to create a show that empowered athletes to lead a conversation around financial freedom, around NIL, to inspire the next generation to take ownership over their lives and their futures both on and off the court,” Hancock said. 

When Hancock and Borland approached Kelly, they emphasized that they wanted to give her creative independence with the show, which Kelly saw as an opportunity to intertwine her passions for entrepreneurship and basketball to service the public. 

“She’s really been a pivotal part of not only being creative in this and being the host of the show, but operationally getting it done too,” Hancock said.

The podcast has accumulated over 17,000 views since its first episode featuring Stanford women's basketball forward and national champion Cameron Brink released on Aug. 9. Since then, Kelly has hosted several star athletes ranging from UNC men's basketball graduate center Armando Bacot to Olympic gymnast Jordan Chiles.

In the years following its introduction, NIL has exponentially grown, allowing athletes to provide for not only themselves, but their families as well – something Kelly said she deeply values. In her third episode with Bacot, the two discussed how each of their favorite purchases made in the NIL era were gifts to family members.

“I got my mom a brand-new car, so that was big for me and probably my favorite thing I’ve done,” Bacot said in the podcast, released on Sept. 13.

Kelly then explained how she is also working on buying her mom a car, “but the first gift in the works is buying my mom and brother a house.” 

“I think we [Kelly and Bacot] can both thrive here at Carolina," Kelly said. "And I think the only thing we’re doing is making the school better and making everyone realize that if you come here, you can do the same thing as well, and just leave better than when you came here.”

The senior guard, who was recently named to the 20-player watchlist for the Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation's top point guard, is using NILosophy to shed light on the inner workings of NIL deals while simultaneously working to achieve her personal goals on the court.  

“I think my shows have been really fun to do," she said. "I think more people should listen because there are some good nuggets in there.”

@COREYMDAVIS04

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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