To make the next step as an agency, SMAA needs a well-known player. Enter Nate Miles. You may know him as the former 5-star recruit who was caught up in a recruiting scandal at UConn. Now after spending time in the Premiere Basketball League, Miles is taking the trip to China to test himself. He was recently stabbed in the left side of his chest, right above his lung. At first, doctors weren’t sure he’d make it, and Miles was on a breathing machine for a week. He spent nearly a month in the hospital as both of his lungs collapsed. It cost him an overseas opportunity.
For the last couple of months, the 6-7 swingman could only run up and down, and didn’t play anywhere besides a few local summer leagues. Now, he wants to let the world know he can still play.
“I’m going to go out here and play my ass off so after this, the doors should open back up for me,” Miles says.
Miles has no clue how Solomon even got his number. But the two connected almost immediately because they love the same things, and both understood each other: helping you will help me. SMAA is about helping talented players who fell through the cracks. No one personifies that more than Miles.
“What excites me about a guy like Nate Miles is he has a name,” admits Solomon, “and being able to revamp his career is something that can put SMAA really on the map to not only help Nate, but provide opportunities for other guys like Kwan, Dave, Lester.”
“All I gotta do is put the work in,” he says. “I think the sky is the limit as long as I put the work in and just keep my head straight and don’t worry about nothing but basketball.”
Dave Johnson had years to worry about how basketball could help him, or rather, how it didn’t. In college at Southeast Missouri State, he says he averaged 12 points a game as a junior, started and was a captain. He was a 6-4 athletic monster who played nearly every position.
Then new coach Scott Edgar came in, and benched him.
As a senior, Johnson played four minutes a night, and grew so frustrated he asked himself why he was even playing. Even the school president felt bad.
“He knew I was getting screwed,” Johnson says. “He knew it, the fans knew, and it wasn’t like I was the type of player to digress. I was always a hard person in the weight room, at practice, classroom, everything. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you to this day what happened.”
He went through a lot over the next three years. Now, he’s on his way to China with SMAA, and doesn’t plan on coming home without a job.
“They’re really progressive,” Johnson says of the Chinese. “They love the game of basketball. I know for a fact I can impress somebody out there.”
This could finally be his break. Solomon thinks so.
“Dave is one of the most athletic guys you’ll ever see,” he says.
China has its own politics. But if they see exceptional talent like Miles and Johnson, they’ll show interest. The fans, who don’t get to see Americans often, will pay money to come to the games. The Chinese clubs can sell 10,000 tickets for a game against 10 players from the United States. The trip will benefit everyone.
Kwan Waller knows this as well as anyone. While he is using this China trip as mostly a way to gain exposure and game film before he tries out for the D-League this fall, Waller did get a past job through a trip to Mexico with Solomon. He knows the benefits, and knows what SMAA is all about.
The 5-11 point guard first met Solomon while at school in Kentucky. Not surprisingly, they connected in a gym, and clicked from day one. They shared the same dreams, and were relentless in their pursuit. After Waller spent two up-and-down years at Kentucky Wesleyan, he reconnected with Solomon and SMAA. Now, he’s been with the program as long as anyone.
“I try not to go into anything expecting too much because nothing really goes as planned nowadays, man,” Waller says. “I’ve learned to just learn and get better. We’ve been progressing along. I got my first job overseas in Mexico my first year out of school. It took a year, and I think that’s progress for having no looks coming out of school.”
Looking ahead to the future, no one is quite sure what SMAA has. There’s some talk about a reality show. There are possible plans to move out to Arizona to collaborate with Sharma for their own gym space and facilities. There are also possible trips to the Philippines, Brazil and back again to China to play a few NBL teams. But as Solomon says, “Everything is talk until the flights are booked.”
Ultimately, the goal is to secure a season-long worldwide schedule, so all the underdogs can make their name using their game. For the immediate future, everyone is excited about going on tour in China. They’re hopeful it goes so well some of them get a job and don’t even come back.
Either way, 16 months in, and SMAA’s Hoop Dreams are just getting started.
“When you are pursuing a dream, you gotta be willing to make your moves in any way you can to get there,” Solomon says. “That’s the biggest thing with what we’re doing. These guys are willing to make any move they can to try to better their opportunities.”
Have you ever had politics keep you from making a team?
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