MY STORY

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Early Days

I was born in Tucson, Arizona in the USA. Loving sports as a kid, I played basketball, football, and baseball in my early years. At just 7 years old after watching a Diana Taurasi documentary, my ultimate dream of being a professional basketball player began.

During 5th grade is when basketball became the only sport I engaged in. This harsh reality for me unfolded because I had been suffering from a rare form of epilepsy which the doctors hadn’t diagnosed yet, nonetheless specifically recommended that I no longer play football due to the risk of receiving multiple head knocks which could easily trigger more seizures. Although it crushed me at the time, this turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. My interest in other sports fizzled out but basketball never left my mind.  Still being able to play on the school basketball team, I grew obsessed with the game, playing before school, during recess, and after school. Even if that meant I had to play on my own (and there were hours upon of this), I honestly didn't care. Thinking back on it, it’s probably what I often preferred. It didn’t stop for me there, I would often play at the park across the street from my great grandmother’s house. That’s where I truly started to realise I was pretty good because the kids from my neighbourhood were very skilled. We even began playing against grown men and we would still hold our own despite not them not taking it easy on us. Constantly playing against people that were older benefited me as a player because on the court I became tougher, more mature, and above all else it gave me the confidence that I had and the advantage when playing against anybody that was my age.

High School

My first two years of high school were nothing spectacular. Wasn’t even on the varsity team in those years which is the highest level of high school sport. Fast forwarding to my junior year (year 11), my mom and I were living in Vegas as she had been transferred there for work. Living in Vegas was supposed to give me a better opportunity to receive a basketball scholarship due to it having much more exposure for sports than Tucson, Arizona. Although I played varsity that year it didn’t go anything close to what I was hoping for and I became very frustrated because the clock was ticking at this point with me only having one more year left in high school to get a scholarship and keep the dream of me playing professional ball still alive. I loved my teammates and coaches in Vegas but I felt it wasn’t the place for me where I could thrive because I didn’t have the role on the team that I was looking for. 

I begged my mom to move back to Tucson so I could play there for my final year of high school, as I had faith that a coach would let me play my game to my fullest capabilities which would show the college scouts I’m ready to play at that level. Receiving a sporting scholarship would provide me with a free college education and get me closer to my path to the NBA. If I went without a scholarship, there was no way I would’ve been able to afford to go to college which would have meant my dreams ended there. It became clear, my senior year was all or nothing for me and I played with that mentality every night. Despite having an incredible season that year, it still seemed like that might not have been enough.

After averaging about 23 points per game, 7 rebounds, with 4 assists making first team all city and first team all state, I still went without a single scholarship. Schools like Montana State and Northern Arizona even turned me down, saying I was either “not tough enough” to play on their team or they had 3 or 4 other players they were pursuing that were better than me . Chico State, a division II school was going to offer scholarship, but not too long into my visit at the campus, they said there was “no more scholarship money available”. 

After graduation, followed by a worrisome summer break, some of my friends were headed off to college in various places across the country. However, I was still home, set to en roll at a local community college. That came to a screeching halt when Providence College, Rhode Island came calling, offering my one and only scholarship. This scholarship became available at the last minute (approximately 3-5 days before school started) but I wasn’t complaining. As they say, it’s better late than never. I believe they only wanted me to boost the teams academic GPA, as I had perfect grades, but they were definitely in for a surprise!

College Days

In my freshman year (first year of College) I didn’t receive much playing time at all. We had a star Senior guard (Marshon Brooks) who was second in the nation in points per game average. Safe to say I had great “court side seats” to every game that year. This was tough and very humbling for me as I had terrific senior year of high school so I assumed my transition to college would have been easier. Looking back, this was a blessing in disguise as I knew I needed to start over and prove myself once again. That summer I worked harder than I ever had in my life at basketball. I became friends with the security guards, who I could call at any time, even at 1 or 2 am in the morning so they could let me into the gym to train. I worked tirelessly on my shooting technique more than anything, determined that would be the key to get more playing time. 

In my sophomore year (second year of College) ,the hard work and efforts mixed with an opportunity to showcase my abilities were paying off so much that I was nominated for Big East “most improved player” award.

In the following season, my junior (third) year, Providence College recruited arguably two of the nation’s best high school players in their respective positions. I expected my minutes to be reduced significantly, so I asked for my release papers so I could transfer to a different school. After just two days days, I had a change of heart and decided I was going to remain at Providence College.

Some unfortunate happening for the star recruits became windows of opportunity for me, as Ricky was ruled academically ineligible to play for the entire season, and Kris was injured the first part of the season which allowed me to receive a lot of playing time for the second year in a row.  The story gets even crazier! In this same season, our senior point guard Vincent Council, tore his hamstring during the first play of the first regular season game. He became another name added to the injury reserved list. Taking advantage of that sad yet advantageous opportunity for myself I became a scoring machine beyond all expectations averaging about 24 points per game those first five game of the year. However, I hadn’t escaped the injury bug either, tearing my meniscus on December 1st. This put me in a tricky situation, as I knew I may not get another opportunity to demonstrate that I could consistently play at this elite level. I played through the pain for the rest of the season and even when Vince came back my scoring remained constant. As a result, I was Big East scoring leader that year was and named  1st team all conference as well.

I had surgery during the off season to repair my meniscus but was eager to prepare for my final year of college. At this point I've finally drawn attention from the NBA scouts and with this being the last year, my senior season was start to feel deja vu. This was all or nothing for me once again. The scouts knew I could score the ball very well but they wanted to see me play more point guard this year to see if my game would translate to the NBA level. I knew I wouldn’t play much point guard because Kris dunn was back to being 100% healthy. However, that soon changed in our last preseason game. A freak accident happened on a play when Kris dove for a ball, essentially leading to a season ending injury. He tried to play through the pain but only played for about 5 games that before deciding to sit out the rest of the season (medical redshirt). His unfortunate downfall provided me with the opportunity to play the point guard position; but for the entire season this time.

This “all or nothing” year for me was terrific, almost seeming like it was destiny. I led the Big East in assists, was 2nd in scoring, and made 1st team All Big East for the second year in a row. We also won the Big East conference championship which was only the school’s second in history.

National Basketball Association - NBA

College was finished, and I hadn’t got drafted. The San Antonio Spurs offered to draft me if I would play overseas that year and they maintained my rights (known as the “draft and stash”). Although very tempting, I turned them down as I was focused on my ultimate aim, playing in the NBA; and I wanted it to be that year.  I was playing in the D league (Development league of the NBA) for about five months. Heading to the airport after one of our many games, I received the phone call from my agent that the Utah Jazz were going to sign me to a contract. In that moment I felt all my hard work had paid off. From playing ball at the park day and night, training at 1 or 2 am  at the gym in college, and most importantly overcoming my illness as a child to now becoming an NBA player. It had been a long and crazy journey up until that point but as they say,  “the journey is greater than the destination” because of all it took to get there. 

During the last 5 games of the season, the backup point guard (Trey Burke) had hurt his back. Due to this, I got to play back up minutes, and the coach told me to be “more aggressive”. I had an average of 13 points per game during that five game span. During the offseason, the starting point guard (Dante Exum) was playing for Australia during FIBA qualifiers when he tore his ACL . I thought this would give me another opportunity to get more minutes for the upcoming season, but unfortunately, I was released before the start of the season. This was a huge shock for me, as throughout my life I had always been able to capitalise on every opportunity I was presented with yet this one was seemingly snatched away from me without cause.

A New Home

The following season I played for Anadolu Efes in Istanbul, Turkey. However, when a bomb went off 25 minutes from my apartment in Istanbul, I decided I didn’t want to play there anymore and fortunately they let me opt out of my contract. My agent came to me with two other options – to join a team in Russia, or to join the Perth Wildcats in Western Australia. The Wildcats were not expected to make the playoffs, so it would provide me with an early offseason, which was appealing since I did not enjoy my first European professional experience.

I joined the Perth Wildcats, and we went on to not only make the playoffs, but won the championship. My experience down under not only revived my love for the game, but I had an incredible time off the floor as well enjoying being in a foreign, yet English speaking country. Back to a basketball standpoint, Perth let me play in a way that showcased all of my abilities on the court. In Turkey, I was so unhappy to the point where I had felt like I would only play pro ball for about 2 more years because I was already feeling that “burn out”. This is why my move to Australia was so important to my life and career; it truly has felt like a home away from home ever since.

In my first grand final appearances I scored 45 points, the most points scored in NBL history in the 40 minute era.. In 2017 in the grand final I was awarded the Grand finals most valuable player, and was the leading scorer in the League. In 2018, we didn’t win the championship, but was awarded the MVP of the league and all NBL first team. In 2019, we won the championship and I led the league in scoring again. With the conclusion of the 2020 NBL season, I have been awarded another league MVP; making me just the 7th person in NBL history to win multiple mvps. Also becoming the first player in league history to lead the league in scoring and steals in the same season. Saving the best for last, we won another NBL championship and was awarded my 2nd grand finals MVP.

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