Our surroundings and upbringings typically have a say in what path we take in life. Growing up in Hydaburg, Alaska I witnessed alcohol abuse amongst my family and throughout the community. I love where I come from and would never change that, The negatives I saw made me grow because they made me choose a path of helping steer our youth away from those poisons. One of the biggest stereotypes of Native Americans is that they are alcoholics which is a stereotype many have lived up to. Not all Native Americans consume alcohol and are alcoholics but this is a big issue in small communities and on reservations. The biggest question is, how can we change this? how can we overcome this poison that continues to destroy the lives of our people? I started Blessed 2 Bless Basketball Camp to encourage kids to chase their dreams. While pushing kids in this direction, I have hoped they would stay away from the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
I grew up seeing alcoholism in my home and around my community. I would be lying if I said I don’t drink, i would be lying if I said i don’t like to have a good time but I’ve learned there is always a place and time for these things. I left home when I fourteen to pursue my dreams of playing basketball and I did my best to stay on a steady path. Yes, I fell off my path numerous times but the most important thing I did was I never quit. My town is known for great basketball players but we have only had two players go onto play in college and finish a career in college. Drinking and partying has been the downfall of many great players and that isn’t what I wanted for myself. I have done my very best to uplift our youth and give them a positive role model to look up to through my journey. My family and life is far from perfect. For years, my parents would drink daily and fight daily. I left to school and would get drunken phone calls from my mother. I would get phone calls from my brother and sister wishing I was home to help them get through all of those fights. Every phone call was painful, every text message was painful and every memory has been painful but all of this made me who I am.
I use to be ashamed of the alcoholism that took place in my family but I’ve learned to embrace everything that has happened because with my story I have inspired kids to keep pushing no matter what. I get messages from kids after my camps asking me how to deal with their parents that drink on a daily basis and how painful it is. My heart goes out to them because I was once in the same exact position. I use my struggles and experiences to help kids get through their similar problems. I want to help put an end to alcohol and drug abuse in our communities and the only way to do that is to address the problem. Too many people avoid the truth or play the victim role when confronted with this problem. My biggest pain up to date is getting messages and calls from people telling me how my mother was drunk and acting in an embarrassing way. I love my mom more than anything in this world. It’s beyond painful to watch someone hurting themselves and you can do nothing about it. Especially your mother. I don’t want people to feel bad for any of the struggles I share. I want people to see my struggles and realize we all go through them. I want people to know that it will get better and your journey is nothing to be ashamed of. I’m going to continue to shed a positive light on my people and hopefully persuade the youth to stay away from drugs and alcohol. That is my vision and I will keep working until I have touched as many lives as possible. Again, never be ashamed of your struggles. Use them to help others and inspire the next generation because it does get better.
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!