What’s up everyone!
A lot sure has gone on in the past 5 years since I was in New Orleans with my teammates celebrating winning #8 for the University of Kentucky. That night was so special! Still to this day, I couldn't have ever imagined being on the court for One Shining Moment and on top of that wearing a Kentucky uniform. You talk about dreams coming true!!! There was a moment in the midst of it all that I felt like I was on top of the world as a National Champion!
But then in a blink of an eye, I found myself going in a different direction with my life - without basketball. So... Let's catch up...
After winning a National Championship, my life changed drastically. I had worked so hard my whole life to have success as a basketball player. I always figured I would play until Father Time told me otherwise. Well, Father Time never had a chance to show his face but God sure did. After double hip surgery and two herniated discs in my back, any hope of continuing my basketball career after Kentucky came to a screeching halt.
I often times wondered what people would say about me after not really filing a role at UK that I had hope and wished for. “Will people still love me?” Will I still be looked at the same? “Will the BBN supporters still accept me?”
I tried to control what I could control and that was my attitude and effort. My health just didn't hold up for me throughout my career.
One of my favorite moments to experience while playing at Kentucky was ex-players walking out as the “Y” late in the second half of games at Rupp Arena. This was always the loudest moment of the night. Every BBN supporter attending the game rises to his or her feet and cheers in appreciation for what that player gave to the University during their time.
I always told myself that I wanted to be the "Y" one day. With my career ending early at UK without really having my “moment” as a player, I figured being the “Y” might not be in my future.
I struggled with my thought process every day until I realized I couldn't change my situation. I found myself in a dark place. This really affected me emotionally and made me question so many aspects about my life. Somehow, I knew that this was not going to keep me down. I was too much of a fighter.
For someone like me who just couldn't catch a break with my health, all I ever wanted to know was WHY? I always want to know exactly why and how things happen the way that they do. This has definitely gotten me in trouble throughout my life especially with my mother. I hardly take NO for an answer without a great explanation. I say all of this because as I was looking for answers or a relatively good explanation for my now uncertain future, it all just eluded me - I just didn’t understand.
All I could see was a future that would be void a professional basketball career.
Majority of the guys I played with at Kentucky were in the NBA and here I was at 24 years old, having to find another passion. When I reflect back on the opportunity that I was blessed with, it's sometimes hard not to get angry. I was at the best basketball program historically in the country and playing for a coach that could produce NBA players with his eyes closed. All I had to do was give myself an opportunity by staying healthy.
Let’s move on…….
After graduating from the University of Kentucky in spring of 2013 with a degree in communications, I wrote and released a book titled Full Court Press - Conquering Adversity Under Pressure. I subsequently became faithful in attending church services while creating a closer relationship with God. My book is about my life and the experiences I had endured, good and bad.
During my senior year of college, I spent much of my free time writing. Journaling was therapeutic for me and provided a positive direction in which to channel my thoughts during such a trying time in my life. It also provided me with me with the opportunity to replay all the enjoyable times that I had so far.
This brought me a great deal of comfort.
I then start to realize that maybe my situation wasn't as tough as I had believed. I was finding that I had so many opportunities to experience many of my envisioned dreams and accomplished things that I never could've imagined. I am a two-time SEC tournament champion, a member of two NCAA Final Four teams, and also a National Champion! I also had the luxury of playing with two of the most dominant college and professional basketball players the game has ever seen in Jarvis Varnado and Anthony Davis.
Writing the book was the best decision I have made in my life to this point. It provided me with a clearer understanding as to why some events in my life were such an uphill battle. So many answers that I was searching for during those trying times were starting to reveal themselves to me.
I HAD A MUCH BIGGER PURPOSE THAN PLAYING BASKETBALL.
I figured that out very quickly with my first speaking engagement - speaking to kids in my old neighborhood…..I will never forget it.
Growing up in a lower income area of Louisville, I always had dreams and aspirations of making it out and getting my family out of there, too. However, I never thought I would be an inspiration to others to the extent that I was. And, speaking inspirationally never showed up in my top 10 goals as a kid. I was telling my story to the kids and I could see expressions of hope on some of their faces. I saw myself in those kids and each one of them had the same dreams that I had growing up.
Where I come from, you either get killed or end up in jail. I do not personally know many that have attended college and graduated from where I grew up. It’s a small handful of us. From that point on, I knew my calling was to use my story to inspire, motivate people and help CHANGE THE CULTURE.
I love planting the seed that inspires people to dream and go after those dreams with 100% dedication. Preparation, planning and a focus forward has turned into my main points of emphasis. It appears that no matter what leg of the journey your life is on, or whatever socioeconomic realm you fall into, a storm will hit you when you least expect it. The question will be - are you prepared for that storm when it hits? What pre-planning approaches have you taken? For me, I always made sure to take my schoolwork seriously and value every single relationship along the journey.
One speaking engagement led to another, then another - well, you see where this is going….and I began to fall in love with my new life.
Inspiring people and seeing my stories have a positive impact on many lives really put life into perspective for me. A kid who did not come from much but a single mother and a few aspirations was now affecting others, positively.
But for those that know me closely, they know that I am always looking for a new challenge. So in the summer of 2015, I decided to change my scenery. I packed up my belongings and move to Atlanta, Georgia. By the time I started connecting the dots and getting myself established, an awesome opportunity came up in Kentucky that was such a perfect fit for me!
I accepted a job to become the Wellness Director for the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan which meant moving back to Kentucky -- I was all for that. A big thank you to Atlanta as I will always remember it as a great step in my journey.
As the Wellness Director for the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan, I look to inspire change to the overall health and wellness of Kentucky state employees. I am also writing another book and starting a video series called Behind the Life in which I am very excited about. I can’t wait to share them with you all.
Before I wrap up, do you remember when I mentioned how valuing every single relationship you encounter is important? A previous relationship got me the interview for the position that I currently serve in. This position became available and the person thought enough of me to call me and see if I was interested. There were others who helped me along the hiring and interviewing process that were friends from past relationships as well.
I believe when you treat everyone with dignity, kindness and respect they will always remember you. Maya Angelou once said “PEOPLE WILL FORGET WHAT YOU SAID, PEOPLE WILL FORGET WHAT YOU DID, BUT PEOPLE WILL NEVER FORGET HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL!!”
If you took the time to read this blog and connect with me in a way that you’ve never connected before. I am considering you FAMILY. I will be blogging consistently and I hope you stay tuned in to read my blogs…. You can order my book below.
Until next time, FAMILY - stay focused and let’s continue to CHANGE THE CULTURE!!