04/27/2015 9:43 AM
By: Canaan Cadwell
Improving the game of one player at a time is the goal for Eric Love.
Since joining the TNBA team in 2009, Love has used the advantage of his connections to help young people. The program started in Cleveland and has expanded to multiple states including Texas with his affiliation as Houston Rockets youth director and has been designed to help bring out the best the athletes, both on and off the court.
“We like to develop the kids and let them get the glory and success,” Love said.
Striving to build growth and cultivate maturity, Love hopes to have the top developmentally driven, grassroots program in the near future.
“My goal, my status is to be where John Lucas is at; training these kids around the Houston area,” Love said. “The culture is that we are always going to play hard and do it the right way. Our kids will be smarter and have a higher IQ than the other teams.”
The hook to attracting talent is that TNBA has pro trainers that also work with NBA teams.
Shane Kline-Ruminski and Steve Vega helped start the company in 2002 and has overseen the growth to eight teams within the system. View the group website, here.
One of most successful team is the 17U team that is loaded with sophomores and has college scouts noticing them now.
“All the kids play at an elite level,” Love said. “6-foot-4 guard Blake Nevins from Cy-Ranch is special. 6-foot-7 forward Karl Nicholas from Dawson, and 6-foot-7 Ashton Charles from Fallbrook can play on any AAU team in the city and they can play on a high level.
“Trust and loyalty is what makes these kids special. They trust me and I am loyal to them.”
Although TNBA is based off of team basketball, 5-foot-9 guard Cody Graham from St. Pius X looks to have a promising future as a star on the court. Love thinks that he may be one that can boast a basketball career beyond the college game.
“Cody Graham is the face of the program,” Love said. “He is the one I started with and he is our best player. The team trusts him and he is the guy that makes us go. He is the ambassador of the program and usually the first one in and last one out. He is like a little brother to me.”
Having the players that are versatile to play any offense and defense, Love implements various systems within his coaching style to adjust to his players strengths.
“We mix it up offensively,” he said. “The 17U team runs a high double screen or 1-4 high if you want to call it that. We have good players so we can run a 4-out run offense with a UCLA flare and pick-and-roll. The pick-and-roll is something I include in every set with our good guards.
“Defensively we will press 2-2-1 and sometimes play 1-3-1. Man to man, full court and half court presses are common, too. But our best defense is our 2-3 zone.”
Since TNBA is in the AAU circuit Love is mindful of the critics who say that it is hurting the game and not helping.
He said that AAU can prove everyone wrong if coaches shift the focus onto fundamentals and not encourage star ball.
“If guys do things the right way and the way I do it, then that should be the best thing to do,” Love said.
With the positive mindset on developing young players first and winning later, TNBA plays smarter than most teams.
Love has been developing players for over a decade and understands how to teach athletes but also develop them to earning that high basketball IQ.
“I grow by the guys that are playing the game the wrong way,” Love said. “Our objective should be that you are a role model to these kids and my job is to help these kids make life lessons and life decisions. If they get a scholarship that is great but at the end of the day, they will be great people.
“There is no loyalty when it is just about winning.”