Students work hard to hopefully play hard in NCAA, NBA

World Today

The U.S. college basketball season reaches its finale on Monday. Michigan will play Villanova in San Antonio, Texas to decide the NCAA championship, ending “March Madness.” College basketball is a route to potential fame and fortune in the NBA, but how does the next generation of college players navigate this ultra-competitive industry?

CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.

The Texas midday heat is oppressive, but there’s no easing up for Steele Knights basketball in the offseason. The medicine balls they hold aloft as they run weigh nearly 10 kilograms.

Byron P. Steele High School won its San Antonio league with two of the highest ranked young players in the U.S.: Gerald Liddell and Jayden Martinez, both of whom are moving to university with scholarships earned through their talent.

“It’s really an amazing feeling – the crowd on your side and the adrenaline pumping,” Jayden said as he and Gerald dribble, weaving before effortlessly dunking in the school gymnasium.

Gerald adds, “Growing up I wanted to be like Carmelo Anthony, but getting older now I like Kevin Durant, because he’s a tall long guard.”

Just one percent of some 18,000 students who play in college make the NBA – the most lucrative sports league in the world.

It’s also littered with broken careers. Even so, some are questioning the need for potential NBA stars to even go to college following a recent bribery scandal and grievances over not paying student athletes.

But giving up an education is not an option for these athletes.

“I always had dreams of playing college ball,” Gerald said. “It is important to my family and everybody that is around me to get that education.”

As Gerald and Jayden graduate to chase their hoop dreams, Coach Lonny Hubbard’s job is done. But there’s always the next generation to worry about.

“It is that much more fun when you are able to turn around someone that had issues and end up doing great. That is why we do what we do.”