I have been thinking about this blog post the last two weeks contemplating if I should post it and address numerous issues I’ve seen while traveling and instructing Blessed 2 Bless basketball Camp. I was recently having a conversation with one of my mentors and I told him “I feel like I don’t have the right to speak out on some of these issues throughout our communities without feeling like a hypocrite because of the sins I commit. He told me “if you don’t do it, who will?” For years, I have traveled to community after community teaching the game of basketball and sharing my story with the youth. June 18-20 will go down as one of my most powerful and moving trips I have taken. During those dates I went to Tanana, Alaska to conduct yet another basketball camp. The person responsible for bringing me to Tanana is an amazing woman by the name of Cynthia Erickson and I truly believe we were suppose to meet. The first day of camp was similar to every community I visit. The kids typically aren’t accustomed to working hard and being disciplined. My first day is typically the toughest to see where these kids stand mentally and skill wise. The kids had a tough time because they have never been pushed so hard and it showed just like most small communities I visit. I always use Skidegate, BC as an example of a loving and supporting community because every time I’ve been there, they’ve shown support for my camp and especially the kids which is the most important part. These last two months have really opened my eyes to how far support and encouragement can go. A majority of these towns, I see a few parents here and there coming into camp. This has really upset me and made me question why these parents don’t support their children and has made me realize why none of these kids are disciplined and most are disrespectful. I only go on my Facebook to post updates about myself and my basketball camp. I rarely scroll through my timeline unless I’m bored and traveling. I started to notice a trend. This trend was ADULTS logging onto social media outlets such as Facebook and airing out their drama, posting hateful posts and calling out other ADULTS. I have an idea for all of you parents doing this, how bout you go and support your child? How about you spend your time posting positive posts on Facebook so your kids can be proud of you rather than embarrassed. Im not judging or looking down on any of these parents as people but I am judging them as a parent. My son will always see my positivity and learn to be spread encouragement. We only have one opportunity to be a parent. Why not do your best to raise a child that will bring a positive impact to our community? I know I will. Who will join me?
I haven’t done a great job of updating my blog so I apologize to those who consistently read my work. As most know, I am currently playing professionally in Istanbul, Turkey and enjoying it. My journey has taken me all over the world. Since arriving nearly two and a half months ago, it has been a culture shock but a good one. I was somewhat concerned coming here with everything you see on the news but it was really been smooth sailing since I arrived. You rarely find someone that speaks English which has been difficult to get used to so every opportunity I get to speak to English, I take full advantage. There is one other American on my team and a majority of my Turkish teammates can speak decent english but not great so that has taken some getting used to.
My team is currently sitting at 3-7 but we are in 12th place in an 18 team league and with a win this upcoming Saturday we can move up to 8-9th place. That is the goal because only the top 8 teams move onto the playoffs and we are playing well right now and will only continue to improve. My daily schedule has been pretty basic; workout, shoot, practice and come back to my apartment. This has been great for me because I have really been able to focus on my individual improvement and maturation as a player and person. I began meal prepping to improve my body and I have seen and felt great improvements. I plan to use these next 5 months over here to continue my improvement on my game and body.
If you are reading this you probably know I was recently featured as one of the faces of the last Nike N7 (http://n7fund.com) campaign that came out a few weeks ago and it has been great to receive all the feedback and support from my friends, family and supporters. I am so thankful for everyone that supports me through my ups and downs. It’s truly humbling to know that my story has inspired Native Americans around the country and throughout Canada. I have many accomplishments that I shouldn’t have achieved because of where I came from but I never let that hold me back. I will continue to chase my dream of playing in the NBA along with spreading my story and Blessed 2 Bless Basketball camp to as many reservations and villages like mine. I’ve always told kids it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can chase and achieve your dreams. i am truly appreciative of the ones that read this and I will keep you updated!
This year has been a great for me on and off of the basketball court. From getting an opportunity with the Boston Celtics and playing in the d league to signing with Nike and becoming an N7 ambassador. My year has had many ups and downs but I’ve grown and improved as a player and person. I’ve learned so much this year about being a professional on and off the basketball court. My off season has been great so far. I started traveling to host my Blessed 2 Bless Basketball camps and I’ve had the opportunity to visit numerous small villages and towns. I finished my last camp this week in Greenville, BC and it was a great experience the other camps. It’s been such a great experience so far working with youth from all over and being given the chance to share my story and inspire the youth. I’ve decided I will be signing with an overseas team this year within the next 2-3 weeks. I’m excited to be placed in a great situation in a great league in Europe. The NBA dream will continue but this years decision was made because it’s the best decision for my family and I. Right now I’m on my way to Portland, Oregon to visit the Nike headquarters and speak at the Unity Youth Conference. I will have the opportunity to speak to thousands of Native American youth and I can’t wait for this special experience. I’m just a kid from a village in Alaska and God has continued to use me in great ways. As you all know, the marathon continues and I can’t wait to update all of you down the road as my career moves on.
Life doesn’t always go the way you plan. Sometimes, you face obstacles and challenges that can either make you or break you. I have been faced with adversity my whole life and up to this point I’ve chosen to make the best of my situation. These last four years at ORU have been up and down but I’ve done my very best to always remember how blessed I was to be in that situation. As most know, I grew up in a village in Alaska and I’ve worked for everything that I could control with the help of peers, mentors, and coaches. Throughout these four years, I’ve faced many challenges and I’ve pushed by every single one and I’m proud of that. Basketball led me to ORU and I had opportunities to leave to “bigger” schools to play but I remained faithful because the coaches stayed faithful to me and I don’t regret staying, at all. I believe everything happens for a reason and I was placed at ORU to change lives and meet great people. I am in Tulsa finishing up a few classes and my internship so that I can get my degree in Media and Advertising. Now that I’m done playing at ORU, my name will be in books for a very long time and I have so many great memories. I didn’t get to the NCAA tournament but I won and developed relationships with guys that I now call my brothers. I leave Tulsa tomorrow to train in LA and workout for 15-20 NBA teams this weekend. When I talk about perspective, I’m talking about realizing just how blessed I am. I wasn’t expected to make it out of a village in Alaska to playing Division 1 basketball and do well. I wasn’t expected to make it through college but I am about to have my degree. I wasn’t expected to have the impact on many lives that I am having but I am. I am not expected to play in the NBA but I’m going to give everything I have to reach that dream even if I play overseas, I will keep pushing towards that dream. I’m not even supposed to be in this position but God made a way. Life is ALL about perspective and how you look at a situation. You will be pushed down and you will be told no but if you want to reach your dreams, you never quit fighting. I am so blessed for the opportunities coming my way on and off the court. I am in the midst of pursuing a professional career while expecting my 1st son (Isaiah) in July and I couldn’t be happier about where I am today. I still have so many more lives to change and things to accomplish but ALWAYS focus on looking at the best of a situation no matter what. God will reveal your calling to you.
I’m a little late with this post but I felt like I needed to write a post about being thankful. As I sat in my room during Xmas break reading tweets and face book posts about having a merry Christmas, I felt like I was missing out on so much. I started to think about everything I had to be thankful for and realized just how blessed I am and I shouldn’t take anything for granted. Every day that I enter our arena to work out or go to practice, I was walk past an old man that works there as a security guard. He is always so happy and you wonder why he’s so happy because all he does is sit at that desk all day or walk around the Mabee Center. I realized that he isn’t bored, sad or mad about his situation. He loves his job and every opportunity he gets, he’s greeting all of us with a big wave and smile. He’s always so happy. I decided that I needed to try to take that approach to my day every chance I get. You never know what is behind the corner and you always need to count your blessings rather than your problems. I always tell kids that they need to thank their parents at my camps for sending them to my camps and always be grateful. Everyone should live with the mentality of making the best of a situation because tomorrow isn’t promised. Don’t be wrapped up in material things because there are people out there who have NOTHING. I’ve walked into many obstacles over the last few weeks such as my baby sister being sent to jail and getting mail from her. Yes, it’s disappointing and heartbreaking but I would rather have her there then possibly ending up dead. Life is all about perspective. Stay positive and take away the good from every situation that arises because God sends his strongest soldiers the toughest battles. That’s my advice to anyone that reads this, to stay positive and count your blessings because you never know what tomorrow brings. Stay blessed, everyone.
Something that I have been using this summer has been “Blessed 2 Bless.” I use this because when someone is blessed with a gift, they should share this gift and pass this gift on to the next person. I tell kids that I want to be a resource for them because I didn’t have many resources when I was a kid. I spent my two weeks away from school in Canada and Seattle. I spent 7 straight days in Canada teaching and running basketball camps. I didn’t just teach the kids about basketball but I gave them lessons in life. I can relate to these small, native communities because I grew up exactly how they did. Working with kids and involving basketball is my passion. This summer opened up my eyes to exactly how big of an impact I can have on these kids and others. It’s an amazing feeling knowing these kids want to be like you and want to inspire others. I told these groups in Canada that it would be amazing to look down the road 15 years from now and see them doing what I am doing. Living out their dreams and inspiring kids to do the exact same. Success is extremely foreign to these small, native communities because they are viewed as a statistic. I don’t want them to live up to those stereotypes. I told them, if I can come from a small village in Alaska to playing at the division 1 level, then anything is possible for them. I want them to dream so BIG that it seems impossible. Each time a kid would come up to me and say thank you, I wanted to thank THEM because they are helping me grow and evolve as a person and role model. My time spent in these two small communities in Canada was AMAZING. After my week in Canada, I spent a week in Seattle working out but I was asked to come speak to a native youth basketball camp. I spoke to about 60 kids and they responded so well. They told me how they had big dreams and how they wanted to chase those dreams because they saw me doing it. The more and more I work with kids, it makes me hungrier to spread my story and inspire as many kids as possible. If you are blessed with something, it’s you’re duty to use that gift to better others. That has become my goal. I’m going to continue to work hard to improve as a basketball player and I want to use basketball along with my story to inspire kids from small communities in Canada, Alaska, and any kid I come in contact with. I grew as a person this summer because of all the interactions I had with kids. I brought up a trainer I work with to help me with a camp and he told the campers “in order to believe something, you have to see it” and he pointed at me. This made me emotional because it made me realize how big of an impact I’m having and it stills seems unreal to me. Every day he texts me and tells me I can change lives. He says keep giving back, keep giving hope to these kids and you’re time will come. We’re back at school and back to the grind. We are back on the routine of weights, class, conditioning and basketball. This summer, I not only improved as a basketball player but I improved as person all thanks to the youth. It’s crazy how one moment can change you’re whole outlook on life. I’ll be checking in very soon, stay tuned and check out my video below of me speaking to the camp in Seattle!
Earlier this week, I got a text from one of our coaches asking if I would come speak to underprivileged kids with a teammate at a church. I immediately said yes. The day of the dinner, I had no idea what I was going to talk about. I never plan what I am going to talk about and basically go “off the dome.” I said it was interesting that I was there because I just posted about overcoming adversity and not wanting to be a statistic. I began explaining my story and told them I could relate to them because I grew up seeing alcohol abuse, suicide, domestic violence and suicide. All of these kids came from broken homes and I didn’t know how they would act. I stood up to speak and they all had huge smiles one they’re faces. As I finished speaking, I asked if they had any questions and about 3 tables full of girls began raising they’re hands to say “do u know you look like The Rock?” It was hilarious. My teammate finished speaking and we signed cards for them saying positive things. They also signed one for me and gave it to me saying thank you and how I made a difference. They kept telling me they wanted me to come back so I made a promise to come back every Saturday that they have the dinner. Each time I speak to kids, it helps ME become better. Those kids grew yesterday and so did I. They told me what they wanted to be and I told them, no matter what to NEVER let anyone tell them they can’t do those things. I’ll be going back to see those kids every month now. You may not be able to change a life in a day, but you can sure make a difference. Share your blessings and gifts with others. INSPIRE!