November 30, 2023

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Swing Your Furniture Bank

Star Pizza gives UH’s Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark a slice of the NIL pie

Mike Pittman took a photo of the video board outside the Star Pizza location in the Heights to, if nothing else, gauge the public’s reaction.

In something that looked like it belonged among the glitzy displays of the Las Vegas Strip, the board showed an image of Marcus Sasser with the message: “Don’t Leave Marcus!” — a reference to the University of Houston guard’s upcoming decision whether to leave early for the NBA draft or return to school.

About an hour later, Pittman was pulled out of a meeting. He thought he might be in trouble with the city and would have to take down the video image. No, Sasser had seen the sign on Twitter and retweeted it to his followers.

“Wait a minute — Marcus saw that?” Pittman, the director of operations for Star Pizza, recalled saying Wednesday afternoon. “I thought the whole thing was unattainable until then, because I realized he saw it, and that mattered to me. Whether he stays or goes doesn’t matter to me. I want him to be a gazillionaire; that’s (part of) why he got into basketball.”

Over the next two weeks, Pittman reached out to Sasser — a key contributor to the Cougars’ 2021 Final Four run — and pitched a name, image and likeness (NIL) deal.