|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.