Basketball in the Urban Core: How To Impact City Kids

Coach Eli Brown

Head Coach; Tulsa Central High School, MoKan Elite EYBL 17u.

About Coach Eli Brown: Coach Brown of Tulsa Central High School has coached at the inner city high school for 7 years.  He is an experienced youth coach with MoKan's 17u Elite EYBL.  In 2016, he was Tulsa World Coach of the Year.  In 2012, he was conference coach of the year and Coach Brown was also the 2015 Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year and State Champion (OK).  Coach Brown has coached many high level players including Elijah Landrum of SMU.  A very impressive resume, especially when you consider that Coach Brown coaches at an inner city public school.  He cannot recruit players, he doesn't control who lives in his district.  Those facts speak to his talent level, work ethic and overall love for his craft.   

With the emergence of high level brand associated travel basketball teams kids are now playing basketball year round.  Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown told Adrian Wojanowski in an interview that young player rarely organize pick-up games with friends. They only play "while wearing a jersey".  He argued that this took away from the players' creativity and their ability to think on the go.  What Coach Brown didn't address is the fact that the rise of brand associated travel teams creates a level of exclusivity that inevitably overlooks a certain class of player.  

An amazing article by The Undefeated highlights the fact that first generation college athletes' enrollment in NCAA Division 1 programs is down significantly.  An argument could be made that the cause for this is a growing minority middle class population.  You could also sight changes in NCAA academic requirements that are detrimental to inner city youth.  We want to be proactive and ask Coach Brown his thoughts.  He knows high level travel teams as intimately as he is involved with inner city ball players.  

They should also be focusing on making sure their child becomes a STUDENT of the game.  

Inspire: Being involved with such high level players what are the most glaring obstacles an inner city kid, attending an urban high school, must overcome to be noticed by high major programs?

Coach Brown: Some of the obstacles that I have noticed right off the bat is a lack of parental support.  Inner city kids are often raised by one parent or even a grandparent.  Often times, that single parent has multiple kids and must work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  That’s one detractor, but another is the majority, which is that single parents don’t have the “time” or desire to support their child.  Inner city kids generally suffer from a lack of resources; resources such as an adequate weight room, proper nutrition and up to date training aides.  It’s also tough for these inner city players to be able to afford private training and travel.  The money needed for camps and getting to places where coaches can see them is also a deterrent.  These student athletes lack the fundamental know how that would even begin to teach them how to obtain a college scholarship!  Lack of resources, lack support and a lack of guidance is common. 

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Inspire:  Many parents don't understand the end game when it comes to getting that full ride for their son/daughter.  Many think NBA or bust, or even D-1 or bust.  What, in your opinion, should be a parent's focus in raising an athletically gifted student?  On what tangible things should parents focus?

Coach Brown:  A parent should be focusing on first, making sure their child is getting educated on what it takes to become a college athlete.  How to be qualified (GPA, ACT/SAT), what coaches look for, as well as what training they should be doing.  They should also be focusing on making sure their child becomes a STUDENT of the game.  The tangible things they should look for is the value in the coaching their child is getting, the value of their training and the value of their education and how to make all 3 of these things work together for the greater good of their child.  They should also see their child’s body changing, their mentality changing, their behavior changing in a more positive direction and of course more college recruitment.

Inspire: Often GPA and ACT/SAT scores can be a stumbling block for students in urban areas.  How can we create value and paint the picture showing people how education is just as much of a vehicle as the sport, perhaps more so since the odds are stacked so high against players aiming to go pro.  

Coach Brown:  The only way parents can create VALUE for education within their children is for the parents to value education themselves.  Kids take the values and morals that their parents have.  A parent must not only talk about valuing education to their kids, but they must demonstrate what that value looks like.  It’s important for parents to sit down with their kids while doing homework, even while in High School.  It is important for parents to continue their own education in some form or fashion.  Show your kids that you are forever learning and that you seek knowledge; even if it’s on how to build something, how to save more money, how to be a better parent, or going back to school to get their degree or High School diploma.  The "do as I say and not as I do" approach, is not the way.  We must model the things we want for our kids and allow them to use us as a vehicle to get that “full ride!”

Inspire Note:

Coach, we admire the work you do in your school and with the MoKan organization and we certainly share your same values.  Inspire Basketball Camps aims to educate and empower kids through the game of basketball.  But we don't simply talk basketball, we teach the game.  Our inaugural camp in August is the NIKE Boys Basketball Camp at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri.  The 5 day event offers a glimpse into what it takes to be a college athlete.  Our drills are designed to not only teach, but also push students to their physical and mental limit so they can learn to push past the point of exhaustion.  We offer classroom sessions where we touch on topics such as; "The Qualities of a Leader", "Social Media Etiquette" and "Basketball Lifer" info sessions that speak to different aspects of life and basketball.

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Esian henderson