Thursday, November 30, 2017

Directed Steps to College Success

Coach Pope and Nashville athletes after a meeting- Jeremy Pope

The process of getting accepted into college is simple but long. Each student must follow certain steps in order to have an opportunity to further their education. For athletes, the process is a bit more difficult. However, some athletes follow the process and some don’t; many are unaware of what needs to be done in order to attend school.

Fortunately, Next Level Skills Basketball Academy provides a step for student athletes to learn all factors that play into college entrance. Once a month at Donatos Pizza, Coach Pope organizes a meeting with some of Nashville’s basketball prospects. The purpose of the meetings is for athletes to work towards getting into college.

“I know a lot of great high school athletes that didn’t go to college or ended paying a lot of money because they didn’t have the information. [These meetings] provide me time with the kids to put everything in perspective,” says Coach Pope.

Coach Pope focuses on college admissions, financial aid, campus visits, ACT and SAT exams, the athlete recruiting process, and their high school GPA. With a background of college admissions at Goshen College and a successful college basketball career, Coach runs a meeting with direct instruction for the athletes to understand the process as simply as possible.

And the process has become focused and simpler. Several of Coach Pope’s Athletes had this to say about the meetings:

Quan Conner says, “the information has helped me work out NCAA recruitment forms and finding colleges that are suitable for me.”

Erric Adams, says, "I have learned to look for small schools that would not only fit my basketball preferences but my academic preferences as well.”

Bryce Watts, says, "I thought the meeting at Donatos was just as informative as it was fun. It was nice talking with some other ball players off the court about future college decisions. The information helped me realize how much work it takes to play basketball at the next level. Basketball is only part of it .... without good grades and proper paperwork, playing at the next level won't happen."

Coach Pope organizes information on the college process for each athlete
Next Level wants their athletes to succeed and understand the work that needs to be done outside the gym. With the help of Coach Pope’s experiences and Donatos delicious pizza, athletes can achieve college entrance and success.

Next Level Skills wants to give a big THANKS to Donatos Pizza for allowing these meetings to take place. If you want to find out more about these meetings, contact Coach Pope.

-Next Level Skills Basketball Academy.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Reaching for New Heights

by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral

Joshua Moody receiving an award after a tournament- Photo cred: Jeremy Pope
Basketball is a sport where dreams can become reality. There is that kid in his backyard hitting the game winning shot over and over again. There is that other kid who leads his team to a championship. Then there is Joshua Moody, a high school senior out of Nashville, who is trying to make his dream a reality by receiving a basketball scholarship. 

The chance to play basketball at the college level is a dream for most hoopers. It signifies the skill level and talent a player has. Joshua Moody, however, is finding some difficulties completing his dream due to one short, little problem: height.

Standing at 5’7” can sometimes hinder a player’s chances of receiving a scholarship. The college level has uniquely gifted and athletic tall players. Joshua knows this as he states his toughest challenge on the court: “My toughest thing I face is guarding the most athletic person on the other team.”

Don’t let Joshua’s height fool you. As one of Nashville’s top players, he has made some noise with his skill. His quick feet allow him to blaze past opponents and attack the rim like a giant. 

Joshua attacking the basket.

Coach Pope, of Next Level Skills, has taken notice of Joshua’s talent and is working with him on achieving his dream. They have been training together and actively pursuing to create his exposure to college coaches.

Joshua’s explains his next step, “I will email coaches from schools I’m interested in.” Coach Pope is working on creating a highlight mix to spread around to help with the process. Until he finds something, Joshua will continue to dominate high school and AAU basketball. 

The hard work and determination will overcome Joshua’s “short” problem and take him to new heights. If you want to hear more from Joshua, contact Coach Pope at Next Level Skills.

-Next Level Skills

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Academic Success and Basketball

Written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral

Daniel Belser, a teammate, and Coach Pope during a workout- Dorina Pope
There are no doubts that inner-city schools have a crisis when it comes to success. Just above 50% of high school students in the nation’s largest cities graduated on time. That means half the students are likely to fail. For Daniel Belser, graduating is very important and basketball is his tool to stay in the books and succeed.

As a senior, Daniel hopes to graduate at the end of the year with a college scholarship. His dream is to play for a college team. He understands that success in an inner-city school is challenging with a low socio-economic status background, few resources, and a sense of lost hope seen among others.

Basketball provides a special resource that helps Daniel with these challenges. Since he was 5, Daniel has used basketball as a tool to keep himself focused on his studies, and more importantly, his character. Through the bad times in a low-income neighborhood, Daniel feels a sense of peace that fills the lost hope.

“Basketball means everything. It’s there when I feel like I have nobody else.”

Daniel Belser working on his jumpshot- Dorina Pope
There are a few important elements that Daniel takes from basketball. There is the responsibility that comes with being a great talent. It requires work ethic and commitment. Every day Daniel enters the gym with a determined mindset to become a successful basketball player. He understands that the same responsibility applies to school as everyday he enters school to become a successful student.

Basketball requires a sense of maturity that successful people have. There is the care and teamwork with others that Daniel understands. There is the professionalism of the sport. Most importantly, there is the love for the game.

Daniel uses school to support his main love and passion. That is why Coach Pope and Next Level Skills are essential to his love for basketball. The basketball and college-readiness training help Daniel focus on what is necessary for the sport, his academics, and life.

“Coach has helped me mature on all levels. He's helped get me looks from colleges and putting me in great positions to get a scholarship.”

Coach Pope giving advice to Daniel- Dorina Pope

You will see Daniel working on his game every day. His training helps his basketball game and structures his attitude for the academics. The goal is to graduate high school with a 3.0 gpa and receive a basketball scholarship.

If you want to hear more from Daniel contact Coach Pope at Next Level Skills.

-Next Level Skills

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Shooting Makes Success

Written by Octavio Parral | @octavio_parral

 “I want to be the best shooter to ever play college basketball.” – Bryce Watts

Bryce Watts During a Shooting Drill - Photo Cred: Dorina Pope

Shooting the basketball is an essential component of the game. It requires skill, timing, and work ethic in order for it to be efficient and effective. Today, shooting has become a lethal weapon on the court. With teams like the Rockets and players like Steph Curry, the game has shown that to be successful in basketball, a player must be able to shoot the ball.

Bryce Watts, from Nashville, understands the importance of shooting. The strength of his game is shooting the basketball. “I have a good rotation [on my shot] and footwork,” says Bryce. He explains that he can shoot anywhere on the court with those two skills. As a sophomore in high school, Bryce was named top 10 in the state of Tennessee for 3-pointers made and 3-point field goal percentage.

These accomplishments are the result of Bryce’s work ethic. Coach Jeremy Pope, of Next Level Skills, runs training sessions with Bryce. Here are 3 drills that have improved Bryce’s shot.
      1) Shooting Off the Screen

The focus of this drill is catching the ball off the screen with correct footwork. Bryce comes from the left side of the court with his left foot first and then his right. As he sets up, he rises up with his shot and leaves a follow-through release. He does the same on the opposite side but with his right foot first. 

     2)  Off the Dribble Shooting
      This drill works with ball handling into a player’s shot. First, Bryce starts the drill with ball handling through 3 cones. Notice how he stays low in his position as he dribbles through his legs around each cone. After the third cone, Bryce sets his feet by using a hop step jump. He rises up with his shot by leaving his follow-through release. 

     3) Advanced Off the Dribble Shooting

This drill is an advanced version of the previous drill and focuses more on ball handling. Bryce dribbles in front of 4 cones. At each cone, the ball is dribbled 2 times in the front, 2 through the legs, and 2 behind the back. He then sets up for his two shots: a set shot after dribbling and a shot coming off the screen. Notice how Bryce continues to stay low in his ball handling.  

“The workouts have helped me put up a bunch of game shots.”-Bryce

These drills are some of the many drills that Bryce works on. Next Level Skills has added necessary training that is improving his shooting. “The workouts have helped me put up a bunch of game shots,” says Bryce on his improvements. His workouts consist of 500 plus game-shots everyday, which leads to him shooting a very high percentage during games--high enough to be honored in the state of Tennessee.

He continues to work with Coach Pope on techniques and small details that improve footwork, release, and speed. His goal is to play for Samford University and win the NCAA tournament. Check some of Bryce's game highlights here.

             If you want to hear more from Bryce contact Next LevelSkills Basketball Academy

-Next Level Skills

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Basketball: An Escape Turned into Dreams

Written by Octavio Parral | @t_voloco

Taiwan doing some ball handling drills- Photo Cred: Dorina Pope
Basketball is the 2nd most popular sport in the world. Everywhere kids are playing at the parks down the street or at the local YMCA. For some, basketball is a fun hobby. For others, basketball is a serious business. In the case of Taiwan Hamilton basketball is an escape—an escape from anger, negativity, and hopelessness.

As a kid Taiwan saw his mother endure many struggles with domestic violence and hunger. There were countless nights where Taiwan had to jump out of bed and protect his mother from being hit. In return, Taiwan was physically and emotionally abused as well. Some nights his mother would have to steal food in order to feed Taiwan.

Life wasn’t easy but in the midst of all the abuse and struggle, Taiwan saw himself dribbling his way out. At the age of 11 Taiwan started playing basketball and it was a little orange ball that created hope. “I liked the game and had fun so I played every day, literally,” Taiwan states. His enjoyment for the game turned into passion.

After failing to make the Nashville Burners team in 8th grade, Taiwan pushed himself to get extra jump shots up, extra dribbles on the blacktop, and extra determination. He made the varsity team at LEAD High School—an accomplishment and reward. “I learned, [from the past], to never give up on anything.”

His basketball escape has turned into athletic opportunities and now, academic opportunities. Taiwan has been working with Next Level Skills Basketball Academy and Coach Pope. The basketball program focuses on training potential college basketball athletes. Training includes skill work and college prep.

Coach Pope and Taiwan after a drill- Photo Cred: Dorina Pope
For Taiwan, Coach Pope has been his support system to pursue dreams of academic success and college basketball. It’s the little things that Taiwan appreciates about his support system: a simple conversation, basketball training, life advice, and college prep. “Not too many people excel at training kids and having a relationship with them like Pope does,” Taiwan admirably says about his coach, he considers his new family member.

Basketball is a blessing for Taiwan. His determination is still running strong as his next goal is to find a college to play for. Until he finds his college, Taiwan will be on the court practicing his game and learning how to be successful in school. His escape has turned into a dream.

Check one of Taiwan’s games here. He is number 21 wearing the red shorts. Get to know him by contacting Next Level Skills Basketball Academy.

Why Next Level Skills was Created (Remix)

Next Level Skills: A Gateway for Young Basketball Players
Written by Octavio Parral | @t_voloco

“Be the change in the world you wish to see.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Coach Jeremy Pope teaching his trainees a few drills- Photo Cred: Dorina Pope
An idea can be a simple thought. It can happen at any moment and once the idea pops, courses of action take place. That’s what happened when I, Jeremy Pope, was sitting in my car thinking what I was going to do with my life. I had just quit my job and the road I saw coming was unclear. All I knew was that I wanted to make a change. Be something positive for people to follow. Help those in need.

Basketball is my life. Growing up a kid from Westerville, Ohio, I hooped all the time. I remember hitting up the parks with my friends or lighting up the three pointers at Westerville-South High School. I was good enough to land a scholarship at Goshen College and lead a life that was unexpected.

Playing sports in a college can do that to a person. It can take someone out the projects, where it’s highly likely to get shot, into a nice, modern gym shooting jumpers. I didn’t grow up in the projects but basketball was my way into changing my life for the better.

Sitting in that car, I ran back videos in my head of what my life had consisted of. Many times did I dribble the ball through my leg, attack the basket, laughed with my teammates, grinded in my sports management classes, died after coach made us run 1000 suicides, and thought about how blessed I am to be playing the sport I love. My idea began to brew.

The next week my phone vibrated. It was a notification from the ESPN app. Three Notre Dame football players had been dismissed from the university for possession of weapons and drugs. Dorina, my lovely wife, saw the negativity in my face after I read the article. She asked what was wrong. College athletes getting kicked out of school; now, that’s a big no-no.

26% of college athletes lose their athletic scholarship in less than a year. Scholarships are mostly one-year commitments and schools have the option whether to renew them or not. Thinking about this, stories I’ve heard from former college athletes, my knowledge of recruiting and college admissions at Goshen College, and my passion for basketball, I finally found my idea.

Next Level Skills is that idea turning into reality—turning into a positive change. After speaking with family, friends, and mentors, the vision of Next Level Skills began to develop.
Basketball, college-readiness training, and mentoring would be the driving force. Kids, like me, will get to experience a life-changing course.

Boom, I had my first player in August of 2016. He believed in the process I had to offer and he trusted the content of my character. This player is a 6'2 sharp shooter that I currently have averaging 20 points per game. His 3.9 GPA with all AP and Honors classes make him a college recruiter’s dream. We walked through the recruiting process and now he is being recruited by NCAA Division II and NAIA schools.

Be the change in the world you wish to see. I want to see kids go to school and be successful, much like I did.
Coach Jeremy Pope after a basketball drill- Photo Cred: Dorina Pope