National High School Basketball Association
A basketball league that caters to the “other” guys.
by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
Despite the ever-growing popularity of the game, the high stakes of high school basketball has created a summer youth AAU market that predominantly caters to high-profile players. The top players in each state get to travel around the country and play in games that are backed by sneaker companies. This is great for those premiere prospects since it allows them to go head-to-head against top-notch competition. But what about the other guys? Those that aren’t blue-chip talent but that are looking to improve their skills, make their school team or just play at some level of competition? Many of them may feel neglected by the lack of opportunities available to them in the youth basketball circuit. This was one of the main reasons why Deuntate Copeland, executive director of National High School Basketball Association (NHSBA), decided to launch his program in 2006. He wanted to develop a platform where average-talented players or those at any other level could have the opportunity to develop their skills and compete.
Aside from providing a sports league for players at all talent levels–including basketball tournaments in the spring and summer while the fall is focused on camps and development–off the court guidance is just as important for NHSBA. There are three major non-basketball programs that Copeland has launched: Winning through Education, Timeout and rebound. Winning through Education is an educational program that serves two purposes. The first is two provide academic tools to high school students that will allow them to thrive in the classroom, prepare for college, and improve their math and reading skills. Timeout serves as an adult mentorship program that provides young people with the support and help necessary to allow them to reach their full potential by making good decisions. The third program is called Rebound and it serves as a community outreach program that encourages young people to work as a team to reinvigorate their communities and schools, as well as help others in need, which will provide them with valuable skills, such as problem-solving and service-learning skills.
SLAM spoke to Copeland about the NHSBA’s initiatives and upcoming events.
SLAM: What is it about your program that you think separates it from other youth leagues out there?
Deuntate Copeland: We’re trying to reach those kids that aren’t necessarily the superstars—not to exclude your talented players—but that’s our major target. Those kids that have potential but may or may not even be on a high school team. If we had to choose who to target, it would be to those that need help, but to me it’s open to everybody. I think a lot of folks only target the elite players because they think these top players might be the next superstars. I think what they’re missing is those kids that have potential of being good players and actually can qualify for college. I think those are the ones that we’re trying to reach. Our goal is to be able to give them the opportunity to develop.
SLAM: What differs your program from other youth basketball targeted organizations, such as iHoops?
DC: We have the same goal in mind; we’re just doing it differently. With iHoops, they’re educating people as far as fundamentals and things of that nature. I think from our perspective, we kind of more hands on. We’re trying to work with the kids and therefore helping them personally develop. Our goal isn’t to compete with iHoops. Our goal is to actually collaborate with organizations like that. I feel the goal is the same. We’re trying to help these kids develop.
SLAM: You mentioned striving to be more hand-on. Can you elaborate?
DC: What we basically do is we use basketball as a tool to develop young people in their academics, community service and mentoring to try and help develop them for college and the real world. We use basketball to help them raise their grades, teach them some life-skills, and also prepare for the future. We also give them the opportunity with our basketball league to play basketball at the local level as well as national. Then we have the educational program, Way Through Education, which prepares kids academically. We then have a mentor program called Timeout. And community program called Rebound.
SLAM: Are there any events in particular that we should be looking forward to this summer with NHSBA?
DC: We’re having a Basketball Run/Walk 5K Run in Chicago on September 22 where all proceeds from the event will go to the NHSBA program. We’re also having a celebrity basketball game in Chicago on the same day.
SLAM: What are some things that you have noticed are affecting the youth’s progression today?
DC: I think the one thing that’s really affecting them is fundamentals. As far as the fundamentals go, a lot of kids like to do a whole lot of things with the ball but not necessarily doing it the right way. I think that’s one thing they need to learn as far how to do things the right way and how to develop, as well as prepare for things outside of basketball because basketball in the long-term is only short-term. Playing in the pros is not going to last forever. When the ball stops rolling, what’s next? They need to be prepared so when they stop playing they have something to fall back on.
SLAM: Which regions are you currently looking to be active in right now?
DC: We started in 2006 and now we have 13 markets across the country. We have so far Little Rock, Arkansas, Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Chicago, New York City, Detroit, Oklahoma, Memphis, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, and Charlotte. We have coordinators developing in those areas right now. We have events coming up in the fall. We focus on students grade seventh through twelfth.
SLAM: How can kids sign up to the local spring and summer leagues?
DC: We have sign ups in the fall and in the spring. If anybody is interested they can sign up on our website, nhsba.net.
SLAM: How did you about about starting NHSBA?
DC: I was a college student. I was in my dorm but when I went back home one weekend I started seeing a lot of kids that were in need of some guidance. I saw a lot of kids that played sports but there wasn’t really anyone out there to guide them and help them through situations. I just felt they could use programs that would help them develop.