Wednesday, July 31, 2019

9 NLS Grads Leaving for College this Fall

Written by Octavio Parral

Next Level Skills Basketball Academy is proud to present 9 young gentlemen who are the second wave of college freshman to come out of the program. Coach Pope has worked with all 9 in preparing for college, basketball, and the next chapter of their lives. Here they are: 
Chandler Wike will major in business/entrepreneurship at Trevecca Nazarene University 
"I am looking forward to furthering my education. College will help develop my skills and give opportunities needed to succeed in life. Getting to play college basketball has been a life long dream of mine. I am very excited for what the future holds." - Chandler
Josh Moody will major in sports management at Sienna Heights University 
"I look forward to getting stronger in basketball and education, making new friends, and being with my new team. I also look forward to growing throughout my four years of college and being great." - Josh
Recco Seay Jr. will major in mass communications at Miles College
"I'm looking forward to the experience of becoming a young adult, networking with others, and continuing my basketball career." - Recco

Caleb Grimes will major in exercise and health sciences at Bryan College
“I look forward to experiencing the college life, having fun, and most importantly letting it fly lol” - Caleb
Nate Hall will major in business marketing at Cumberland University
“Coming into my freshmen year of college, I want to make a name for myself. I want to focus on my studies and basketball. This is the start of my life.” - Nate
Kenny Davis will major in engineering/entrepreneurship at Nashville State Community College
"I look forward to furthering my education and playing basketball. I want to learn new things and expand my knowledge so I can share my experience with others." - Kenny
Ethan Sherrer will major in business marketing at Trevecca Nazarene University
"I'm looking forward to continuing to grow as a student, friend, athlete, and servant of God during my time at Trevecca. " - Ethan
Michael Neal will major in sports management and business at Ohio Christian University
"I’m looking forward to the whole college experience. Can’t wait to put on a college jersey and put on for my city in Ohio. ”
Dominic Bonvissuto will major in nursing at Benedictine  College
"For the opportunities I've been given I'm grateful, and I look forward to furthering my education in order to achieve the best version of myself and make all those who have believed in me and supported me proud, especially my family, friends, coaches, and coach Pope." - Dominic 

-Next Level Skills

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Next Level Skills + Carpenter's Square Mentoring Program Launch

Written by Octavio Parral

One of Next Level's Players with Mentor Jeffrey Shelton

Next Level Skills began from the ground up as a mentoring initiative. Coach Pope believed in his calling to provide young gentlemen an opportunity to create successful future lives.  

With mentoring as the backbone of his mission, Coach Pope and other mentors have created an important mentoring program. All of the 2019 graduates have been paired with a mentor for six months. The goal: to provide mentoring and advice for future careers and to  begin career planning. 


Some of our Mentors and Mentees

Each athlete will have the opportunity to work with professionals from different careers of the athletes’ interest. They will have conversations, listen to key tips for a successful career, and job shadow their mentor. 

Next Level gives a huge shoutout to the nine mentor professionals! 

     Jefferey Shelton          Owner of Get Fit on the Go
     Drew Freeman            Exec. Director at Franklin YMCA
     Steven Earwood         Owner of Earwood Fitness
     Anthony Moore           Owner of Nash Co.
     Richy Ivey                   Owner of Highly Favored Studios 
     Todd Heifner               COO of Nashville Sports Council 
     Scott Brown                Director of Ops of 4Patriots 
     Lelan Statom              On Air Meteorologist for Channel 5
     Tyler Lusk                   Co - Owner of Woolworth on 5th

The young athletes are on their way to a bright future. Even more than learning about their career interest, they will learn about character building, loving to learn,  strong values, and falling in love with the grind.

-Next Level Skills

Next Level Skills Spring Break Training Camp

Written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral

Some of the boys with Coach Pope after a group discussion

14 young players participated in Next Level’s first ever spring break training camp. The players participated in a week long camp of training in basketball, education, personal health, and college prep. 
Each day consisted of discussions about self-confidence, the hardships of college, and what to expect at the next level. A 30-minute film session of college basketball followed the group discussions. It was important to break down different components of the college game to prepare the athletes’ mindsets on how to play. The topics discussed during the film sessions were implemented in the training sessions and scrimmaging. 
A very exciting part of camp took place with guest speakers from a variety of different backgrounds in the basketball community. 

Kyle Capps, Mike Hunter, & Errick McCollum talking to the boys about the college process

Monday had two college coaches: Kyle Capps of Sienna Heights University and Mike Hunter of Shawnee State University. Their message talked about the life of a college athlete, the recruiting process, success after basketball, and ways to improve their games. Errick McCollum, a former teammate of Coach Pope and a professional overseas in Russia, ended with an important message about basketball and what it takes to succeed at the professional level. 
Wednesday’s session focused on career planning and the keys to success for careers after college. Carl Steen (owner of 3rdGen Fitness), Dalton Shelter (commentator of Michigan State basketball and football), Kieth Judkins (owner of Fade Away Barber Shop), and Brennan McMurray (financial advisor of UBS Financial) came and provided advice on decisions for a future after college. 

Career Planning Discussion

On Thursday Jefferey Shelton, owner of Get Fit on the Go, put the athletes through a fitness workout for agility and strength. His message emphasized the importance of fitness and physical health for college and life after college. 

After a training session with Jeffrey Shelton

The camp ended Friday with two police officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department. They spoke about the common and legal issues athletes face in college. Elder Randy Paterson mentored the athletes about making important decisions that will make an impact for their futures. 
What an exciting and informational camp! The athletes improved their games, and more importantly, their maturity and decision-making for college and future careers. Next Level wants to give a big shout-out to Carpenter’s Square for sponsoring the camp with lunch and workout gear. Thanks to Subway, Olive Garden, and Donatos pizza for providing discounts on lunch. And of course, thanks to all the people involved who made this camp successful.

-Next Level Skills

Sunday, November 18, 2018

New Gear - Why is There a Bird Logo for a Basketball Program

Coach Pope and a few of his athletes. Check out the "Bird" repping Nashville.

Next Level Skills has new gear out, and the program wants to share its purpose with you. Next Level Skills has recognized  difference being made with basketball and the path these players are choosing.

When Coach Pope decided to start this business, he based his philosophy on his favorite bible verse Mathew 6:26-27

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It signifies the impact Coach Pope wants for Nashville youth. He communicates with the kids, even thought they will hit hard times in life to keep their faith and understand God will protect and provide for them. If birds are taken care of, surely you will be. Through hard work, dedication, and the help of loved ones, he has seen a difference and his new gear is proof.

The purpose of the new gear is to rep the city of Nashville with one design. The "bird" flying shows its presence over the city.

The 3% design shows the percentage of athletes who receive scholarship money for basketball at the college level. Next Level Skills’ athletes are striving to be in the top 3% in their class in pursuit of receiving athletic and scholarship/financial aid packages for college.
With this new gear, the athletes and families have something to share with each other and the community. There are currently 35 players in Next Level Skills and 5 players in college. The program is growing and Coach Pope's philosophy is working! 

Sizes range from S-XXL and there are color options.Take a look at more of his gear by contacting Coach Pope on his website.You can also reach Coach Pope via phone or email: 

Phone: (614)-284-4261

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Trust the Process: Passing Down Knowledge

written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral
Coach Pope during a training session. Photo Cred: Dorina Pope
Next Level Skills Basketball Academy is a direct representation of the famous Joel Embiid quote, “Trust the Process.” The process of going to college for academics and athletics is not a simple task and requires a multitude of facets in order for success to occur. Five of Coach Pope’s athletes have been playing basketball since their childhood and now they are headed towards a new season of life: college.

Trey Esaw, Erric Adams, Daquan Conner, Bryce Watts, and Daniel Belser are all headed to college. Four for basketball and one to pursue an education with the lessons he has learned from the game. Next Level Skills focuses on creating a community of players to learn and grow with each other. The five graduating seniors created a To-Do and a Not To-Do list from their experiences in high school to pass on to the other players coming up through the program. These objectives might seem simple, but they have all effected one or more of the seniors greatly during their recruitment process.


  • Go to school and attend ALL of your classes
  • Turn in all classwork/homework on time
  • Arrive to practice every day early to get extra shots
  • Do extra work on and off the court every day (basketball, weight room, school work)
  • Maintain a clean social media
  • Ask questions and listen to advice
  • Use email to reach out to academic and basketball personnel (coaches, counselors, and teachers)
  • Collect highlights for highlight tapes. At least one needs to be completed by the end of your junior year
  • Have fun
Each Do is a key component to play college basketball. Of course, there are the Don’ts, which can effect anybody’s chances of playing.


  • Don’t burn bridges with academic and athletic personnel. These people will help you achieve your goals
  • Don’t go blind into any college entrance exams (ACT and SAT)
  • Don’t wait for college coaches to approach you. Market yourself
  • Don’t play Fortnite every night. Accommodate your time for rest
  • Don’t slack in the classroom
  • Dont let your grades and behavior slip. Coaches would rather have an average player with great grades and is very coachable rather than a great player with bad grades and does not listen. The average player that is coachable and has good grades has much more potential and that is what coaches look for when recruiting.
  • Dont ball hog. Not getting your teammates involved leads to college coaches questioning your priorities and character. 

The class of 2018 has provided these Do’s and Don’ts in hopes to help other players in Nashville achieve their goals of playing college basketball. 

Tray Esaw will attend Volunteer State Community College.

Erric Adams will attend Tennesse Wesleyan University.

Daniel Belser is pursuing an opportunity to attend Goshen College.

Bryce Watts will attend Covenant College.

Daquan Conner will attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Good luck to these players and wish them a great experience. If you want to hear more from the players and coach, contact Coach Pope at Next Level Skills

- Next Level Skills Basketball Academy

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hard Work and College: Quan's Story

 Written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral
Quan during a training session with Coach Pope- PHOTO CRED: Dorina Pope

Basketball is a gateway of opportunities and potential. Opportunities are presented to athletes, such as a college scholarship, and it is up to the athlete to take advantage of those opportunities. Dequain Conner (Quan) has presented himself an opportunity, and he plans to take full advantage of it.

The journey to college begins with an escape. Since 7th grade Quan has used basketball to focus on school and stay out of the streets in Nashville. “I needed something that would keep my mind on the right track,” Quan states as he reflects on his past. Basketball is an everyday thing for him (from 7th grade until now).

Relentless work ethic on the court is the next piece. For years Quan has paid his dues to basketball and school. Countless days were spent in the gym. Many games were won and some were lost. Going 25-6 during his senior season and winning district are proof of the work ethic.

Through it all, Quan continues to grind his way from the hardwood into the classroom. Quan treats school as a basketball game and the goal is to win. This coming fall Quan will call the University of Tennessee Knoxville home. He plans to help others by pursuing a doctorate degree in physical therapy.
Quan Conner- PHOTO CRED: Doring Pope
With a blessing, Quan has received help from others who believe in his hard work and potential. His coaches, and parents have all been a part of the Quan’s college choice. “They all have wisdom and I like to get different viewpoints before I make this decision that will change my life,” Quan says about his mentors.

Another important piece of Quan’s future is Next Level Skills. Coach Pope has been mentoring and training Quan on how to prepare for college. They meet regularly to discuss college options, work on processes of college acceptance, and of course, basketball training.

“Next level skills is not only improving your basketball skills but your skills that you need to be successful in life.” - Quan

As he inches closer to college, Quan will soak his last moments of high school and enjoy the ride. One thing that will never change is his work ethic and he will carry that into his future. Quan has this to say to other kids in the same position: Never give up.

If you want to hear more from Quan and Next Level Skills, contact Coach Pope here.

-Next Level Skills

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Mental and Physical Aspect of the Game: Erric Adams Story

written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral

Erric Adams of KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, Photo Cred: Jeremy Pope

Just like any sport, Basketball requires two components to function properly in order for success to occur. There is the physical aspect and the mental aspect. Point guard Erric Adams understands the importance of both as he uses everyday training methods to increase his performance.


Standing at a whopping height 5’9”, Erric must be able to use his body in unique positions in order to make up for the lack of height. Training includes knowing how to contort the body in certain positions to attack the basket, shooting from all spaces and ranges, and building conditioning and strength.

Being on the shorter side of the basketball world definitely makes the life more challenging. However, with a solid work ethic, Erric has proven that his height is what makes him the basketball player he is. Every day is a physical journey and Erric will continue to work out in the gym and weight room to become the best physical player he can be.

If there is anyone who can relate, that’s Coach Pope of Next Level Skills. At a short height himself, Pope had to use his athleticism to get him over the hurdle of playing giants at the college level. Now, he is training Erric in a similar fashion as he did at Goshen College.

“The biggest improvement has come from Erric. It’s night and day,” Coach Pope says. Later he would go on to say that he has a personal connection with Erric’s training.

Erric trains his body everyday to compete at a high level, Photo Cred: Jeremy Pope


There is a saying that the game is 20% physical and 80% mental. The thought process controls the steps, passes, cuts, trash talk, and whatever you can think of when you play ball. Erric trains his mind to understand how to play. When is the correct pass? Cut? Shot? Attack? Play? All these require a great amount of studying from Erric and Coach Pope.

The greats of the game, Lebron for example, are built like computers knowing how to get the team functioning through precise actions. Coach Pope works with his point guard on these precise actions through workout sessions.

And of course, don’t forget the confidence piece that allows Erric to compete at a high level. High confidence stems from hard work ethic, training, belief, and his faith in his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He wants to be the best and think like the best. Night and day, Erric, with the help from some music, prepares himself to play and succeed on the court. He also heavily relies on his favorite scripture, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13. Look at some of his highlights and pay attention to his decisions on the court. 

Erric's dream is to play at the collegiate level. He will continue to focus on his physical and mental game and improve every day. If you want to hear more from Erric or Coach Pope, contact Next Level Skills.

- Next Level Skills