Talk about your childhood growing up in Chicago and being exposed to the game early in a highly competitive environment?
My father exposed me to the game at a young age. I grew up at Fernwood Park and Foster Park open gyms, where there were countless hours of basketball being played. I was about 6’0 in 7th grade playing with adults. I had to earn a lot of respect to get on the court and soon that respect was given.Chicago basketball talent ran deep at a young age. My AAU team (Illinois Warriors) consisted of Sharron Collins, John Scheyer, Julian Wright, Jacob Pullen and other notable names. There was no time to take days off because we all wanted game minutes.
Once I was able to get my first dunk in 8th grade, my father started pushing me into the mental side of the game. He had all of these VHS recorded tapes of bulls games and we would watch MJ have his way with any teams. I would look at film for hours of myself and other NBA players on how they approached the game.
My father knew that he could only take me so far as my talent started to develop more. He knew I needed additional help so my father hired an on court basketball trainer named Barry Bradford and Jerry Jones who was my strength and conditioning coach. Having these two transformed my game to another level.
What were some highlights playing ball at Strong Ridge Prep in California and then played 4 year at Valparaiso?
When I was playing out in Stone Ridge Prep, it was nothing but eat, sleep, school and basketball. Playing at Stoneridge Prep, I was able to play against the best players in the world. We were able to earn a top 25 rank in the US.
Playing at Valpo, I was a 3 year starter, 2 year captain, Top 10 record for all time steals. Valpo is a D1 basketball program located in North West Indiana. Our schedule every year was named the toughest non conference schedule in all of NCAA basketball. Our coach preached that if you want to be the best, you have the play the best.
One of my strongest memories at Valpo is hitting the go ahead 3 vs. Butler University.
You played in China for 2 Years, talk about some highlights of that experience playing in a foreign country.
The China basketball market had made a huge impact the year I came out of college. This was the NBA lockout year and NBA players wanted to still play the game and get a pretty legit paycheck while doing it. Playing basketball in China was a tough experience for me. I didn’t understand the language, but quickly understood the currency. Even though I struggled a lot during my time in China, the common language was the game of basketball. We would travel all over China.
A lot of my time in China, I would just walk around random neighborhoods to find an outdoor court. Within minutes, I would have a huge crowd of people just watching me shoot and cheering me on as I made a basket. It was crazy! It was just a different appreciation of the game and I respected that.
High School Basketball in Chicago is getting better and better every year, what do you enjoy most about being on the inside, facilitating the growth of the game?
These kids are good! I have always said that the Chicago kid always has a chip on their shoulder. The one thing that is common from when I played is the grit that we have when it comes to the game. I truly enjoy giving these kids opportunities to further them not just on the court, but in their everyday life.
What excites you most about basketball in the future, when things get back to normal?
I am mostly excited about seeing our Chicago kids compete at a high level during the HS season, but also Summer time Chicago basketball is like no other. The search for finding a run, in a hot gym, no air conditioning, where hours of basketball is played with the best players from Chicago is what I look forward to. That’s Chicago Basketball.