by John Gil 01-15-2009 02:00 AM
The NBA is a dream many want to live but very few get to experience. I have those dreams, but the road that I have had to take has been full of blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes because of so many obstacles, I want to give up, but God does not allow me to. In fact, through failure, I have pushed even harder and even succeeded in the game of basketball.
Growing up in NYC (in queen’s bridge NY), basketball was introduced to me. Especially living in the projects, not many people make it out, let alone make it to the league. First I had to deal with my moms having me at age 15 and living with just her and pops coming in and out of our lives. In the bridge, waking up hearing gunshots every night, faith in God and ball was the only things that kept me sane. My mom worked so hard to get us out and we finally moved outside the city to a place called Carmel NY. It was a culture shock to me there because at that time it wasn't really cultured. There was a park called ryans field. Everyday I would walk there rain, snow or sleet…didn’t matter. I played ball and practiced. When 8th grade came along, I started to become recognized as a potential athlete who could play college ball.
So freshman year comes and I wanted to play varsity but was dropped to the JV. I was a knuckle head when I was young. I didn’t do well in school. I balled, but I was more focused on trying to be the man in high school. That brought me to rock bottom, and I was kicked off the team my sophomore year of high school because of my grades. Life sucked. I questioned God everyday and I felt He abandoned me. So I stopped playing for the whole summer because I just didn’t care anymore.
When my junior year came along, Coach Riolo didn’t want to put me on the team. Like I said, Carmel was not cultured at the time...figure it out lol. But this former D1 college basketball player from Iona University, Terrance Rose, saw something in me, as well as Mr. Peterson, one of my teammate’s dad. They pushed me to make the team and so I did.
As the season went along, I got no time at all. I mean I averaged 1.5 min a game with a scoring average of 0.8 points per game. People started to ask why I wasn’t getting any time and even my mom was concerned. Being the mom from Queens that she is, in the middle of the game, she stormed the court during play and started yelling at the coach because he was putting players in before me who had no game whatsoever. Talk about embarrassing, but it got the job done and I went in the next play.
After that season Coach Riolo was fired. He told the team that it was for a reason that was not true, again...figure it out. My JV coach was hired for the Varsity position. I was thinking “ya now I am finally going to shine,” but it was the opposite case. Again I averaged 5 minutes a game and 1.8 points per game. I even told coach Murphy that I felt I had the skill to play college ball. He looked right at me and said this was the last time I would play organized ball. As he said that, I said if God is for me, then I can do anything.
I went back to that high school 2 years later and everybody found out that I was playing college basketball for Valley Forge Christian College. When coach Murphy saw me, he couldn’t say anything because he remembered what he told me that day.
Valley Forge was no easy road, I was a 5'9 point guard trying to get better. At first, I came off the bench and did fairly well for my freshman year. But something inside me had awakened a passion to get better and go above and beyond. After my freshman year ended, Coach Mack decided that I should stay to improve on my game to make me a starter and so I did. Everyday, 6 days out of the week, I did double sessions of workouts and then games at night. At the end of the summer, I had transformed from a point guard trying to fit in the college ball system, to a starter who opponents feared guarding me.
My sophomore year of college, I was the starting point guard. It was a successful year. The dream of wanting to play in the NBA was there, but the passion flamed inside of me grew, spreading like wild fire. That is when I started talking to some D-I programs such as Liberty University, and a D-II program called Colorado Christian had interest in me transferring to their program (but I had to redshirt if I went).
So I decided to stay at Valley Forge. My junior year was the hardest year of my career of college ball. My teammates did not like the fact that I wanted to succeed at the next level or even a better school. Even Coach Mack did not like the idea. My relationship with Valley Forge was not good; I was getting ridiculed because I wanted to be in a better position with my basketball career. So that’s when I knew I had to leave even if it was my last year. I didn’t care.
We went to Florida for a tournament at Southeastern University. This NAIA school was known for just killing teams. Every year, they would make it to the tournament. After we played them and lost by 20, my heart was whispering transfer! I even told my center Eric Addison and he thought it was funny. So I did just that. I took off my first semester because I had talked to Coach Dunlap of Southeastern University too late. But second semester came along and Coach Dunlap needed me to get on the team because a couple of guys got kicked off for disciplinary reasons. I did just that.
Playing for Southeastern University was the best year of my college career. Not only were we winning and finished the season 24-10, but I had the best teammates and coaches. They had welcomed me with open arms like a brotherhood.
During my time playing college ball for a summer, I was able to play overseas for a month in Malaysia through Sports Ambassadors. We would play 2 games a day and for the whole month came out undefeated. After the season ended at Southeastern University, I started getting calls from a lot of agents, as well as email stating that I could play overseas ball and work my way up to the NBA. Especially since I had the speed, defense and quickness to be able to make an impact at the next level.
I didn’t know the whole business of the game or agents and I dealt with some bogus agents. They would promise me contracts, and some of them even stated, if I signed they would take 10-20% off my contract. I didn’t know what to do, and as of September 2008, I had yet to sign a contract because many of these bad agents had no deep contacts or any marketing skills to get me out there.
I prayed and prayed and asked God please help me out. Then that’s when this agent Graham Howarth from SMWW (Sports Management World Wide) came into the picture. Even though I had missed out in 2008 to sign with a team, he has been working diligently to get me a contract in 2009.
The road of basketball for me has never been easy, but like Matthew Allinson, the CEO of Access Athletes told me, “The good things in life never come easy. You have the work ethic and the faith, so you are on the right path." The obstacles in my life have only made me a stronger basketball player and giving up is a word I do not know.
Published 01-15-2009 © 2022 Access Athletes, LLC
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