Sometimes, the best mentors are those who have overcome their own struggles and are now equipped to guide the next generation in avoiding some of the same pitfalls that they themselves narrowly escaped, perhaps due to a fortuitous meeting with someone who changed the course of their life and are now able to pay it forward. A prime example of this is Rich Brown, a Bellport High School graduate and a professional overseas basketball player. Brown has given back to the community he grew up in by running various basketball camps and clinics to inspire youths to transcend adversity and stay on track for success.
Brown, like many young people, began going down a bleak trajectory as a troubled teen who failed every course in his freshman year. However, he was able to overcome this rough patch and emerge with renewed purpose and determination. He subsequently went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from SUNY College at Old Westbury, and he attributes this turnaround to his own DDDS formula, which stands for Determination, Desire, Dedication, and Success.
The Brown Academy of Learning & Leadership, also known as B.A.L.L. PREP, was founded by him, on these principles, and initiated by his experience as an international professional basketball player. Throughout his career, he met many aspiring youth basketball players from several countries, who had big dreams of studying at a college or university while playing basketball in the United States.
“I saw through my experiences that although these young student/athletes may qualify both academically and athletically to play ball here, the light at the end of the tunnel is dim without having the right connections and resources. I believe my true calling on this earth is to give back, and I want to be able to help bridge the gap and provide these young men and women an opportunity to learn and receive maximum exposure to fulfil a dream, the American dream, “Brown said.
The Bellport graduate acknowledged that he would have never been able to fulfil this mission without help from those who share his vision. He cites the assistance of the entire community, most saliently his longtime mentor and coach Rob Powell; his close friend and South Country School District Board of Education trustee Raf-Yel Flippen; esteemed Bellport residents Rob and Demetria Guirantes; and the entire South Country community. DO-DADS CLUB INC., a not-for-profit organization, has also partnered with the Brown Academy of Learning & Leadership.
“From the generosity of our host families, mine being one, we have provided eight students with this opportunity. This is a pilot program, and there is a huge, expense as well as enormous commitment, to give them a wide range of avenues to view and research. Our primary goal is to put these young men in a position to enroll in a United States college or university. We will visit and tour many East Coast higher education institutions, so the students can gauge what life may be like,” explained Powell.
The young athletes will also train and play in a year-round basketball schedule with the aim of being recruited to earn both academic and athletic scholarships to college. The first group of these motivated athletes has already started their stay here.
For the past seven years and counting, Brown has continued to serve as the head boys junior varsity basketball coach at Bellport High School. While also managing to play basketball overseas for the past eight years in three different countries (Spain, Australia, and Costa Rica), Brown has, unsurprisingly, launched successful programs in each country.
In addition, Brown recently launched the first-ever professional one-on-one basketball league in the Cayman Islands. It’s called the Check Up Basketball Association.
To find out more about the B.A.L.L. PREP program, to donate, or to sponsor a student athlete email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ball-prep.com.