Account Management - Game 7 Marketing // NYC Basketball Ambassador
Feature No. 19 | July 31st, 2020
What are your first memories of the game? Who are some players you grew up playing against?
My very first memories of the game are with my family - my dad & sister, Lilka. I truly come from a basketball family, and my dad literally put the ball in my crib. Back in the 70s & 80s he used to host runs at Columbia University - from what I remember him telling me the coaching staff had recruited him pretty heavily, and he stayed close with the program, so they allowed him to host runs there with his friends. Some of my earliest on-court basketball memories are of him taking me and my sister to Columbia to workout and play shooting games, I want to say I was between the ages of 4-7.
My first experiences of organized basketball are from 7-9 years old, playing in small leagues or pay-for-play programs at Asphalt Green on the Eastside. Looking back, the competition level wasn’t elite but there was a strong focus on fundamentals, and I was given the opportunity to learn from skilled coaches like Ray Shields (Cal), Tony Hargraves (Iona) & Ernest Aughburns (Tulane) and to play with one of my great friends, Edis Dervisevic. I’ll never forget the feelings of messing with my dad’s weights the night before a game, or making fresh OJ before lacing up my Air Penny 2’s on a Sunday morning… and getting BUSY.
Now my first experience with competitive hoops didn’t come until I started playing Biddy Basketball with Milbank. I grew up in East Harlem and it’s widely known that C.A.S Dunlevy Milbank Center is sacred ground for the basketball community in Harlem. Generations of great players have come through those doors, and I will always have a special connection with that center. My dad grew up playing at Milbank (he lived up the block on 118th) for the legendary coach Buster Bryant, some of my earliest memories at the center are of my dad playing with some of his old teammates in the annual Buster Bryant Memorial game.
Not only did my dad play for Milbank, but my sister was also playing for their very strong girls program. When it was my turn to start my journey through the program I was hyped. My dad made some calls and although I was only 11 or 12, they asked me to play 14u in the tournament at the Jackie Robinson center on 145th, with Coach Stan Brown. I’ll never forget having my mind blown when he called timeout and pulled some change out of his pocket to draw up plays with the coins representing players, LOL. I got after it that day, I want to say I had around 15pts and nearly double digit rebounds. More importantly, Coach Wayne Banner was sitting in the stands watching, Coach Banner was busy building a strong program at Milbank, immediately after the game he told me to be at 12u practice next weekend.
Playing for Banner gave me my first real taste of competition & hard work. He was on the coaching staff at Rice HS during the Mo Hicks era, so his practices came from the same vein - the suicides & monkey drills (IYKYK) were ENDLESS. But we weren’t only running in practice, we were running on dudes in the games, we used to throw on the “Monster” full court press and be off to the races. Banner did a really good job of bringing in and developing talent in a “community program.” I was playing with guys like Jamie Harris (Drexel U), Momo Jones (Arizona/Iona), Domo Jones (USA BB) John-John Pressley (Jay Prezi), Derek “Dee-Dee” Edwards (RIP - He was tragically shot & killed at the African-American Day parade in 2004). We were playing in tournaments like Holcombe “Baby” Rucker, Citywide, Millennium, Nike Swoosh & Boys Harbor. This was my first time competing at such a high level, and we did win a lot, we also often ran into the traditional NYC powerhouses like Riverside Church & The Gauchos.
As I got older the game brought me so many opportunities, for which I’m eternally grateful. Once I got the chance to play with the New Heights program, I was exposed to the highest levels of youth basketball. New Heights was a newly formed program that promoted a philosophy of developing players as Leaders, Champions & Student-Athletes. Not only did they offer a new fresh perspective on training at a high level, they also gave me the chance to compete nationally with guys like Lance Thomas, Lance Golubourne, James Feldine & Chris De La Rosa. We would travel to tournaments in Texas, Arkansas, Vegas, LA and have battles with guys like Kevin Love, Brandon Jennings, Michael Beasley & Nolan Smith. Back then the NCAA rules on AAU weren’t as strict, so D1 schools could actually be host sites for tournaments - It was crazy to be playing games at Cameron Indoor w/ Coach K on the sideline watching at 16-17 yrs old.
One of the most impactful opportunities that I earned through the game was the chance to attend The Kent School for my Jr. & Sr. year, playing for the Legendary Don Gowan (RIP). Kent is a prestigious boarding school in CT. There are some prep schools out there that are kind of like hoop factories and they really focus on developing athletes as they transition to college. Although there’s a strong athletic tradition at Kent, the school is rich with academic excellence and they emphasize other traits like Directness of Purpose, Simplicity of Life & Resilience. It was crazy to be a public school kid for my entire life and then completely switch to such a different type of schooling, but it was also empowering to be living away from home at 16 years old. I was able to adjust to the demands of boarding school life and by my senior year I was putting up crazy numbers (multiple 20/20 games), I was awarded the League MVP award in 2006.
How did your father play a fundamental role in your career?
I truly believe that everything I’ve accomplished along my journey is a testament to who my Dad was as a person. Like I said, he put the ball in my hands, he passed on his love for the game to me. To put it simply, I could hoop a little bit, but Big Lloyd was NICE! He was a 6’6” sniper and was a monster on the boards.
My dad attended Hughes HS (now Humanities) earning Daily News All-City honors before playing at University of Wisconsin & transferring to finish at University of Rhode Island. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 1972 NBA Draft to the Baltimore Bullets. He wound up getting injured during Rookie Camp and phasing out of the NBA. He went on to play in the league back home at his birthplace of St. Thomas, but never established that veteran pro basketball career. When I was a kid he would always reinforce to me to have a backup plan.
He had quite the backup plan for himself. In the late 70s he started baking Carrot Cakes, tweaking a secret recipe passed down from his Grandmother. He would host friends at his apt to watch Knicks games, and bake Carrot Cakes for them. They would tell him that they were so tasty that he could sell them. Soon enough he was selling them out the trunk of his car to local restaurants and coffee shops, and Lloyd’s Carrot Cake was born (IYKYK!!). The business started strictly as a wholesale operation, our first client was the famous Sylvia’s Restaurant on Lenox Ave, fast forward across 35 years of business, we sell what’s known unequivocally as the WORLD’S. BEST. CARROT CAKE. (I’ll take the pepsi challenge against ANYONE), along with a host of other tasty cakes, pies and treats. We’ve been featured on the Food Network, in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal amongst a ton of other publications. We also have started shipping nationally which has been tremendous - give us a follow: @LloydsCarrotCake.
I grew up working with my dad after school and in the summers, we would hit the markets for supplies and load up the van with cakes for wholesale deliveries around the city. Without fail we would run into someone in Harlem that my dad knew or used to hoop with, they would never hesitate to tell “Lil Lloyd” how nice his pops was. He really had a way with people, especially the way he was able to connect with fellow ball players. He was always ready to offer some advice to my teammates or friends.
He was also my ace in the hole when I was in a Jam. After my senior season, my recruitment picked up. I received an offer from Manhattan and verbally committed, as I saw Manhattan as a quality academic school with a strong basketball tradition in NYC. This was my chance to play at home in the MAAC, a strong mid-major D1 conference, in Riverdale nonetheless, a neighborhood I was close to as it’s the home to the first Lloyd’s Carrot Cake brick and mortar location. After I verbally committed to my coach Barry “Slice” Rohrssen, I picked up some strong interest from coach Ed Cooley who had just taken another job in the MAAC at Fairfield. Coach Cooley invited me up to campus for an official visit, and on the advice of my AAU Coach I took the visit, to at least gauge if I had interest and enjoy a weekend on campus and away from boarding school. Well somehow Slice got wind of the fact that I was on an official visit and wasn’t too fond of the idea of me exploring my options. I hadn’t checked into my room for more than an hour before receiving a call from my AAU coach that he was on his way to pick me up, to avoid me jeopardizing my scholarship offer. It was really stressful to weigh the options for your future at 18 years old as intra-conference incumbent coaches quarrel over a recruit. I got a call from my dad while I was in my hotel, talking through how I wanted to play this out and he calmed me down. Now I wasn’t there to see this part, but not long after we talked my dad is strolling through Draddy Gym, carrot cake in hand smoothing things out with the coaching staff. I signed my National Letter of Intent to Manhattan a few days later - there are very few problems that cake can’t solve!
Thinking back one of the things that saddens me most is not having the opportunity for my dad to watch me in college. My first semester of freshman year he started suffering from complications due to Kidney failure. He was in and out of the hospital just as the season began and wound up passing away at the beginning of the calendar year. It was a difficult time, adjusting to college life being a student-athlete and losing my father. The thing that complicated things more for me was I was on campus literally footsteps away from where he started a successful business - the first black owned business in Riverdale, NY. His passing was picked up by local papers and it was something I had to live out in the public eye. Freshman year was definitely a challenge, and although the days got better losing a parent never gets easier, I still miss him everyday. But I’m thankful for the time that I got to spend with him, all the lessons that he’s taught me and everything he has provided and still provides me with to this day.
Talk about your experience playing overseas and that whole experience?
My overseas basketball career was the epitome of the phrase - had a cup of coffee. I played in the pro league in Colombia for a season, and although it was short lived experience any time spent in Colombia is an EXPERIENCE!
Coming out of college I was unsure what my next step would be, as I didn’t have a storybook collegiate career. Although I earned a starting spot by my sophomore year, my minutes and production were inconsistent and we underachieved as a team. During my tenure at Manhattan I strongly believe that we had some of the best talent in the MAAC (Darryl Crawrford, Arturo Dubois, Shagari Alleyne, Devon Austin, Antoine Pearson, Jamel Ferguson, Laurence Jolieceour, Andrew Gabriel, Chris Smith, Rashad Green, Rico Pickett, Pat Bouli) but we could never put it together - I never got to experience that elusive NCAA Tournament Bid. Once graduation arrived, I knew if there was an opportunity to keep hooping I had to pursue it .
After graduation I had two opportunities to keep playing, one in Finland through an agent I got connected with and the other in Colombia, through an old coach from NYC who was Colombian. I decide to go with Colombia because of my relationship with the Coach and his direct connection with the organization’s front office.
Colombia was an amazing experience, I was playing for Valle Fastbreak, based out of Cali, Colombia. We traveled all over the country competing against teams in the league. The experience was amazing, I was living the dream playing pro ball in a foreign country. I wasn’t making crazy money, but I was hooping, signing autographs, doing press conferences - stuff I dreamed of as a kid. I’ll never forget walking to grab breakfast and seeing myself in the paper.
Talk about your overseas experience.
I do wish I was better prepared mentally for overseas life. I was far away from home, away from all my family & friends, in a place where I didn’t have a strong hold on the language. Colombia is a beautiful country, full of beautiful people with a rich culture, but they were and still are riddled with crime and poverty. I’ll never forget the feeling walking out of the airport to see guards equipped with assault rifles. The effects of narcoterrorism are still felt across the country and the gun culture was jaw-dropping. Following one of our first practices I asked the team’s “money-man” to rebound for me while I got some extra shots up, he obliged but not before he removed a .45 caliber pistol that he casually had tucked away during practice - that’s a big ass gun fyi!
The team also had a lot of issues, I had to chase people down for paychecks, the living situation wasn’t substandard and we weren’t doing much winning. I began to become unhappy with my situation and my gameplay suffered, I wound up back home sooner than I’d hoped.
Throughout my college career I had begun coaching AAU ball, coaching at Riverside Church and then eventually at New Heights. All throughout college I thought coaching was my path, So once I returned home I immersed myself in coaching and took a step back from pursuing a pro career. I often wonder how my story would have played out if my hooping career started in Finland as opposed to Colombia.
You’ve worked with every big tournament in NYC, Dyckman, Rucker, Kingdome, Hoops in The sun to name a few. Do you feel like NYC still holds the crown? How have you seen the Mecca of basketball change?
My work with the NYC streetball summer leagues is a direct extension of being able to build relationships from playing and coaching in these platforms. As a kid you play in so many different summer leagues and it really is just the place to be, they’re all just little hotbeds of energy that you can barely translate into words. And the guys that run these events were always people I looked up to. I was fortunate enough to have a relationship with the Pops Cruz and the Cruz Brothers as a young teen, Joe Cruz used to coach the Youth League at the 92nd st Y. But I became a familiar face, because I was always trying to play in these platforms growing up and if I wasn’t playing I was there watching unlimited games. My dad used to love going to watch his good buddy Mr. Couch compete in Nike Pro-City at Hunter College. By the time I was in my teens my family had moved to a place in Yonkers, so it was a ritual to hit Dyckman games on the way home, my dad loved to watch games standing outside the gate, but I always wanted to be near the action.
Once I began coaching I really started to look at the otherside of sports. I was given the opportunity to start coaching 12U at Riverside Church by Mark Jerome, who coached me my sophomore year before heading to boarding school and is honestly one of the brightest coaches I’ve had the opportunity to play for, we had a great rapport and still do to this day. Mark was tapped to rebuild the Riverside program following the Ernie Lorch scandal, and he did a great job bringing in skilled and passionate coaches to lead the talent in the program. It was definitely a rebuilding period following the generations of greatness to come through Riverside, but looking back those times at the church were special. As a program there were a ton of future college stars during that period and few current pros (Donovan Mitchell, Eric Paschall, Ty Jerome). I also got the chance to build some lifelong relationships with the kids I got to coach. I had the opportunity to follow some of those kids all the way through to college, and although we didn’t have any elite standouts on the next level all of those kids are successful in their own right and I’m proud to say that I was a part of their development as young men.
The relationship that was most pivotal to my growth in the sports marketing field was with Ken Stevens at Dyckman Basketball. I had played in the tournament since I was 15 and around 2011 I was coaching in the HS division with my New Heights team. Following our game I grabbed some time with Ken just to talk about his platform and my POV seeing it not only as a player and a coach, but someone that has been a fan and spectator watching the platform grow exponentially over recent years. I expressed to him that he should focus on building their social media presence to amplify the platform to reach those that are unable to make it into the park. In true Kenny fashion, he responded with let’s do it next thing you know I’m sitting courtside at Dyckman building out their twitter base and starting their IG platform. This was such a pivotal summer cause 2011 was a lockout year for the NBA, if you know anything about NYC streetball you know how epic this summer was. My only interaction with Kenny prior to this was a tournament participant or spectator but he was so willing to allow me access to help build his platform and it’s been amazing to have a front row seat to the phenomenon Dyckman Basketball has grown into. I’m so proud of the work that the team has accomplished and I’m glad to have played a small role in their success. Following the lockout Summer I began to work closely with Ken on his sponsorship presentations and accompanying him on his meetings with Nike and other sponsors. He also allowed me to start running one off special events at the park throughout the summer, which really steered me towards my current role. I’m forever grateful to Ken for being so welcoming and allowing me access to his platform. He’ll always be family in my eyes along with the greater Dyckman basketball team as well as the Dyckman community, by proxy.
In my humble opinion, NYC will always be the mecca of basketball. We set the trends in all facets of the culture and basketball is no exception. There have been talks in recent years about summer basketball not being what it was or the HS leagues falling off, but there's been a strong resurgence of talent coming out of the city and NYC is still the northstar for all things basketball culture, and that’s never changing. EVER.
You're coming up on 3 Years at Game 7, talk about your involvement in grassroots basketball and the recent Dribble For Justice campaign that you led with G7 and how that came about?
My time at G7 has been tremendous for the trajectory of my growth as a sports marketer. Not only did I get a chance to polish and showcase skills I had been building for years, but I’ve been able to impact & support programs I’m close with in the process. I’ve had roles in the past we’re I was in a position to give back, specifically my time on the Modell’s Marketing Team, but being at G7 has been different. Making sure we can approach things from the lens of the player, coach and spectator has offered me an advantage. Also being able to ensure we hire the right people for events and spotlight the right personalities to make sure that we’re giving back and empowering the community has been very important.
G7 also has offered me the chance to work with some of the strongest brands in the industry. Working directly with the Nike Basketball team has been amazing, I’ve been obsessed with NIke Basketball since I was a kid and now I’m in a position to help support their plans from strategy to execution. I’ve been a part of some amazing activations over my time at G7 from NY vs NY to NBA All-Star Weekends, and everything that we produce has been work of the most premium quality. And it’s a testament to the amazing people that make up that agency.
One of the events that will always be closest to my heart was the unveil of the Air Jordan 34’s last year. This was a huge moment for the Jordan team as the 34s was the most innovative shoe Jordan produced in years and they were also leveraging this moment to introduce Zion as the newest face of the brand. Initially our plan was to host an event with the Baby Dunk crew at Rucker Park, but complications called for a last minute audible. Days before this momentous event we were scrambling for a new venue, luckily we were able to pivot to move the stage to Milbank, where it all started for me. It was such a special moment bringing Zion through Harlem, only problem was I was incredibly sick the days prior and event day, I was downing meds for like 72 hours straight, I consider that day to be my flu game, lol.
Dribble for Justice is also something I’m very passionate about and proud to have been a part of. It’s honestly not even considered a work event, but more of a vehicle to inspire change brought to life by key figures from the NYC hoops community. I’ve sat and watched the news daily over recent months, alongside the rest of the country. It’s clear that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed in this country, and this isn’t anything new but it’s just so much more amplified because of the age we’re in. It was so disheartening and enraging to constantly see brothers and sisters that look like you being slain for public consumption. And again, this isn’t new, I grew up in the age of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell & Abner Louima. But I can only imagine being a teenager in this era and opening up instagram daily to see someone else being killed, leaving their legacy as a hashtag. The basketball community is one that is so close-knit, so we wanted to make sure athletes of all generations had a platform to express themselves and be heard. Our first March was a rousing success, leading a group from Dyckman Park down the Harlem River Drive to Rucker Park as we rallied with another group and marched through the streets of Harlem for a culminating with a rally at the state building. We followed up with a march in Atlanta led by Jah Rawlings and our friends at the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League. Our goal is to continue with these marches to keep spreading awareness and bring about change. It goes without saying 2020 is an unprecedented year, there’s a lot at stake this summer and it’s critical that the hoops community comes together as a force to impact positive change.