Brian Sandifer always wondered how he could get kids to stay grounded with their hometown roots as they grow and become successful in sports and in life.
“So many times people see a child grow up, get some success, and then leave their hometown really never supporting it again and this bothered Brian,” said Stephen McCarthy, president of the McCarthy Project. which helped develop a question Sandifer always had into an organization aimed at providing an answer. Like a light bulb, voila! The Grassroots Hoops Clubs were formed.
Getting kids connected, recognized, and established in their own communities is the primary focus of the clubs. Sandifer, who heads the Grassroots Hoops Club with McCarthy, uses the incredible talents that outstanding kids display on the basketball court as a way to further their understanding, knowledge and connectedness to themselves, their communities and the people around them.
McCarthy and his McCarthy Project further assists the Grassroots Hoops objective by providing health, nutrition and educational lessons to the athletes designed to fuel their minds and their bodies maximizing their potential for success.
Keeping kids connected to their hometowns is a challenge, but a challenge that will eventually be overcome by Sandifer’s motivation and unique ability to inspire individuals to stay connected.
“Over the last 15 years, Grassroots Hoops Club has been driven by one mission; to create long lasting relationships with young people who play sports and their communities,” said Sandifer.
Last month, the Grassroots Hoops Club showcased prominent athletes who found success in through the game of basketball but never lost ties to their hometowns in Minnesota.
The event was dubbed as the Grassroots Hoops Club All-Star event and showcased local celebrities such as NBA professional Rodney Williams who currently plays for the Delaware 87ers in the NBA Developmental League. Williams, born in Minneapolis and a graduate of Robbinsdale Cooper High School, stayed home to play four years at Minnesota. Williams’ junior year after was his breakout year after Trevor Mbakwe had gone down with a knee injury.
Mbakwe, another attendee at the All-Star event is another to stay true to his hometown roots. A native of St. Paul, Mbakwe attended St. Bernard’s High School and Sibley High School before graduating in 2008. Mbakwe circled to Marquette where he suffered chronic knee injuries and eventually traveled to Miami Dad Community College. After a success 2008-09 season with Miami Dade, Mbakwe redshirted his way home to Minnesota where he became a dominant force at the center position for the Golden Gophers.
After suffering a devastating leg injury in his senior which delayed his advancement to the NBA, Mbakwe made his way to Italy signing a professional contract with Virtus Roma. After a successful 2013-14 season oversees Mbakwe recently returned home not only to attend this All-Star event for the Grassroots Hoops Club, Mbakwe was here to prove that he is back to the same player he was two years ago before is NBA trained was derailed.
After playing in the summer league which just wrapped up this past week, Mbakwe has contractually agreed to terms to become a Los Angeles Laker. Other prominent names in the basketball community who were in support of this event were Moe Hargrow who played professionally in Europe and Jordair Jett, who was the Atlantic Ten Player of the Year, along with Trent Tucker, a former NBA professional who attended the University of Minnesota.
Sandifer, using the All-Star event to provide youth with solidified examples in community connectedness through sports has created enough interest for the current group of youth to follow in the footsteps of past, present, and future professionals to show that success doesn’t have to separate someone from their roots.
Evolving with the times has been the challenge for the Grassroots Hoops Club, but with the help of the McCarthy Project the basketball court has turned into the classroom for young athletes to learn valuable life lessons.
“Through all the years of my research education, nutrition, and training are all rolled together,” said McCarthy. Athletes who get involved are benefitted dramatically by the opportunities they get to be noticed by coaches as well as the valuable education they get how to grow as people, to communicate with each other, and think beyond the box all by utilizing the game as basketball as the platform to learn on.
“So many times there’s some camp or organization that guarantees kids will be in front of coaches, increase their knowledge and leave with potential avenues but then the camp ends and the money the parents paid is gone with nothing more than before the kids went to camp” according to McCarthy.
But that’s what precisely makes this Under the Radar Showcase event so unique for the Grassroots Hoops Club and the McCarthy Project — no money is needed for the youth to participate.
The event, which will be held on Aug. 8 at Columbia Heights High School, will spotlight the best male basketball players in the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota will feature a “battle within the classes” in which graduates in the same year will be competing against one another in a scrimmage to showcase their talents beginning with the Class of 2018 and ending with this upcoming year’s seniors.
The following week, on Aug.15, the top females will get their opportunity by following the same format. McCarthy knows they’re on the right track with the overwhelming response to the event they’ve had.
“We look forward to showcasing the amazing talents of these young athletes while promoting connectedness to their communities; it should be a fun two weeks of basketball.”
Both days the doors open at four, more information can be found on The McCarthy Project webpage or the Grassroots Hoops Club website.
Contact Ryan Schleicher at [email protected]