Former Boston Basketball Star Starting Mentoring Program
Timmance McKinney was once a promising young basketball prospect from the greater Boston area. Like many young talents, he was targeted by a number of grassroots programs, some of which sold him promises of stardom and unfair labels of “high-major” that only set him up for failure. Without a male role model in his life, McKinney was too easily manipulated and led down a road that ultimately led him to transfer to several high schools. As a result, he wasn’t able to get through the NCAA Eligibility Center and thus ineligible for a Division I of II scholarship. Now, as he continues to work his way through junior college, he’s giving back to the City of Boston and hoping to help other young men avoid the same pitfalls and traps he succumbed to. McKinney is currently in the process of visiting six Boston schools to talk about his experiences and launch a mentoring program. He also plans to work on a documentary and book in the coming months, telling his story and detailing the struggles he has experienced as a student athlete. Below, in his own words, he explains his motivation for launching these projects:
by Timmance McKinney
Growing up in Boston there were a lot of negative influences around me. I found an outlet in basketball and spent all of my time and energy on it. Unfortunately, school was not easy for me and I let it fall to the wayside. I learned later on in life that the two go hand-in-hand and I’m still working to make-up for mistakes that I was not able to recover from in high school.
Now, I want to educate young men in the city of Boston on the importance of school along with their basketball dreams. I want to be able to use my story to help them avoid the mistakes my friends and I made. School is such a vital part of life, on and off the court, in order to stay off the streets in my city. A lot of young men don’t understand that, and I do not want to see them learn when it is too late like I did.
These young men also need to be careful with who they let help guide their basketball careers. AAU programs have become a big part of kid’s lives in the city and sometimes the people associated with these programs do not have the best interest of the players in mind. These kids are being fed these big dreams with no real support. Basketball is pushed on them in so many ways and they end up forgetting about school and betting on their skills in basketball to get by in life. I have met many people who have filled my hopes up with basketball success but in the end have left me hanging when I really needed them the most, especially when it came to failing in school. I spent many nights sitting up crying when I was 15-17 because the people I trusted the most, my coaches, were the ones that did me wrong in the end. Because of my lack of grades, it was critical to have the support of my AAU coach, to guide me both academically and athletically, but he provided neither and even went so far as to bad mouth me to college coaches.
This is a man I trusted, and because I had no other male figure in my life, I put my career and education in his hands. He ended up leading me down a very dark road though. I wasn’t in the right classes and ended up going to many different high schools because of his advice. To him, it was all about helping him succeed as an AAU coach. He used me to help himself. When it was time to get my academics right he was nowhere to be found, and because I followed his advice, I wasn’t even able to get through the NCAA Eligibility Center and consequently not even eligible for the scholarships that he promised.
I know many other kids that this has happened to and I want to be able to be able to help them avoid making the same mistakes I did. I am fortunate because I was able to use this situation and my mistakes as motivation to keep going with my career in school and on the court. There are many things I regret doing as a teenager, and I want to be able to use these situations to give kids advice on not giving up when they do find life hard.
As I got older I had a lot of younger kids in the city reaching out to me for advice. One in particular, Ikenna Ndugba, who now attends Bryant University, a Division 1 college program. We have built a tight relationship over the past 7-8 years with many hours spent in the gym working on our games. My main point I would always make to him, and still do to this day, is that he needed to do well in school and everything else would fall into place for him. Just recently he called me because of a major mistake he had made during one of his games at Bryant, and he wanted my advice. I was happy to know that I had influenced and helped him enough where he was still able to call me even though he had already made it to a Division 1 school. I let him know he was lucky to be where he was and no matter the mistake he would bounce back. There are so many kids in the city right now getting killed or going to jail and he is one of the exceptions that has made it out. I want to be able to help other kids get to where Ikenna has gotten.
I believe that by providing a mentoring program for kids around the city I can help to change kids’ paths in a positive way. There are many, like me, that do not have a male figure in their life and I hope I can bond with these kids and they can learn from some of my experiences. I have been able to turn my life around in school, achieving a 4.0 GPA this semester with a chance to graduate and hopes of a Division 1 school still taking a chance on me, something I had never thought possible a few years ago. I believe my story and struggle will help to guide the kids of the 6 schools I will be visiting in the right direction. I believe we have some talented kids in the city of Boston and I want to help them live their dreams and gain a free education while playing the sports they love.
McKinney with students from Timilty Middle School last week