A basketball team for youth is changing the game when it comes to giving kids opportunities to college scholarships and putting them on track to a professional athletic career.
Adidas International Elite 16U team was started by three African-American men late last year looking to give back: Mt. Hood Community College coach and former professional basketball player Nate Bowie; Allan Brown, a coach at Lower Columbia Community College; and Qayi Steplight, an Olympia, Wash. resident working for college basketball recruitment resource Prep Hoops.
Together, head coach Bowie and assistant coach Brown worked to recruit Portland, Tacoma, and Seattle area hopefuls from the 8th to 10th grades to compete in circuits in the mid-west, the south, and Canada over the spring and summer Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) season, as well as special tournaments sponsored by big name athletic wear companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.
Normally AAU teams expose mostly older high school juniors and seniors to tournaments where there are college scouts, Bowie said, whereas his approach has already resulted in his younger freshman and sophomore players getting looks and offers from NCAA Division I recruiters. He also said other amateur teams in the U.S. rarely, if at all, compete internationally, which also sets them apart.
“I think it's a little more conducive for a kid to get a full-ride scholarship if he gets seen four years in a row instead of getting seen one or two years,” Bowie said.
Using his eight years of experience as an international professional basketball player for several teams, including Canada, Morocco, Greece, Kosovo, and many others, Bowie said he’s trying to pass down his knowledge of doing business on a global scale to up and comers. The team is sponsored by Adidas with added support from some of his friends and business associates, including active professional basketball players, from different countries.
“If I had that type of exposure when I was younger I would've done even better internationally. Now I did great but if you can expose them at 15-16-17 years old, that makes it even better,” he said.
Bowie, 31, is also an Adidas trainer who hosts his own camps worldwide to train clients from high school to NBA players.
“Player development is crucial for your AAU season because in the summer, that's when you get better at any sport. If you're just playing games, games, games for exposure it might be ok but you're not getting better at your individual skills. So that's what we do too,” he said.
Bowie appreciates the support he’s received from parents and some of the high school coaches that he has worked with to recruit participants. Two of his players are from Sherwood High School, located 32 miles southwest of Portland, where Head Coach Rahim Tufts has been behind them “100 percent,” a rare bid of support among high school and AAU coaches, he said.
Jamison Guerra, a sophomore at Sherwood, is one of the top point guards in the state, Bowie said , and got invited to the 150 Phenom Invite Only, which is a national youth basketball development camp that has been known to churn out hundreds of NBA and collegiate players in the past. Guerra will play at the 150 Phenom game in San Diego in August.