An Unpredictable Journey: The Unlikely Path into Pro Ball with Adam Kado

Adam Kado is an Kenyan American professional basketball player for Hannover Korbjaeger in Germany. I got to know Adam a little bit during our time on the Athletes in Action Fall Tour. I have a ton of respect for Adam’s persistence through what has been a somewhat unorthodox route in finding his first professional gig. He is a inspiration to anyone with dreams of playing pro ball. In his spare time he is also an aspiring writer who chronicles his hoop journey (click here to read his blog).

 We sat down for a few minutes to discuss hoops, life as an expat, and what has helped him get to this point in his career. 


I see your blog popup on Facebook every once in a while, where did your interest in writing come from? 

I started last year on the News Release tour. I never really read before, I would read a few books in school, but never outside out of class. I listened to every song on my ipod and decided that reading might be good for me. So I just kinda got interested in it; its been awesome for me. If you saw some of my papers in college I just didn’t really care about it, but now I took it upon myself to further my education while I’m playing ball so I’m not just doing things physically but working my brain and improving mentally.


Where did you first get your start with basketball?

I’ve been playing basketball ever since I can remember. I was never the best player around, I just played because I loved the game. I was athletic, but never really skilled. I didn’t get any attention from colleges until my Senior year. I didn’t have any scholarship offers out of high school.

I went to a Junior College, where I had two phenomenal years and I was an All-American. I don’t think I would have ever gone to college if it wasn’t for basketball.


When you didn’t get any looks from colleges in high school, what kept you motivated to keep working?

My father was an immigrant from Kenya and moved to Wisconson, he got a bachelors and a masters degree. He wasn’t super strict in terms of a career path, he just told me to follow my dreams. I love basketball, I would dream of playing basketball. You know how it is, picturing yourself in a finals game making the last shot. I put so much time in the gym, working harder than everyone else.

 If basketball could get me a free education, that was going to be my best option, so I put everything into that dream.


We’ll “say” your between 5’10’’ and 6’1’’… So how have you modelled your game to compete with bigger guys?

The smaller you are, how you compensate for that is with skill. Isaiah Thomas is about my size, and say the average point guard is 6’3’’, means that within those 4 inches of difference you have to make up that difference with a ton of skill.


You know how it is, picturing yourself in a finals game making the last shot. I put so much time in the gym, working harder than everyone else.


So in terms of your journey, after not getting a lot of publicity coming out of high school then working to be an All-American at JUCO and then receiving a division 1 scholarship to Fresno Pacific. What do you think helped you through those different times in your career?

The biggest thing for me was changing my mental approach. I just couldn’t do it under the lights. On the street, or in pickup, I was unstoppable, but when I’d get in the game I couldn’t perform the same way. I worked so hard on my game in between that time to where I had so much confidence in myself that that the lights didn’t scare me anymore. I prepared myself so hard mentally and physically I finally reached a mindset that I wasn’t scared anymore and I finally put it all together.

If you can ever do something once, you can always do it again. If you can make 10 shots in a row in practice, you can do it in the game. Its just all mental.

Free Pdf's-3

Did you know as you were getting ready to leave Fresno that you wanted to play professionally?

 Yea playing professionally on some level was always my goal as a kid. Its obviously tough to make the NBA, so any level professionally.

It was hard. Its been 3 years since the end of my last collegiate game and I just got a contract 6 months ago. My dream never wavered, the route I took was just circuitous. My dad was huge for me in this process, he encouraged me to chase the dream even though I had insecurity about finding a “regular” job to make money.


In the last 3 years how have you stayed motivated to keep your dream alive?

I came from a neighborhood where people would always talk about the how good of a player they could have become, a lot of regrets. I don’t want to live with regrets. I am fine with trying and failing, but not even trying wasn’t an option for me, so I took every opportunity I could to try and succeed.


 I prepared myself so hard mentally and physically I finally reached a mindset that I wasn’t scared anymore and I finally put it all together. If you can ever do something once, you can always do it again. If you can make 10 shots in a row in practice, you can do it in the game. Its just all mental.


What did you do to increase your odds of finding a contract?

I had to have a second to none worth ethic which goes without saying. I took the Fall Tour with Athletes in Action, mentally, physically, and spiritually it prepared me for what I’m experiencing now.

Athletes in Action Fall Tour
Athletes in Action Fall Tour


How so?

When you’re in educational based athletics, school coincides with basketball. Once you’re away from that and you’re just an athlete and your livelihood is your body, it shifts the dynamic. You don’t have to be motivated to go to class, you don’t have teachers telling you what to do. Instead, I’m waking up and worrying about making sure I go to the gym. Everything is in your hands. You’re your own teacher. What am I going to do about it?


Did you take any other “unorthodox” steps to achieve your dream?

I also went on a News Release Tour and played in front of a few teams in Germany. They showed some interest in me but I didn’t get picked up right away. I had some opportunities to go to Germany as a coach to maybe find a way to get my foot in the door. I ended up turning it down at first.

Juco Ball
Juco Ball

But when I got back to the states I regretted it, so I stayed in contact with that team’s manager and I contacted them this past Summer. They hadn’t signed anyone yet so I got a two-week tryout and after that they decided to sign me. If hadn’t signed me I was planning on just touring around Europe and trying out with a bunch of teams on my own.

I worked full time when I was home from 2013-2014 just trying to save up as much money as possible to tour around and tryout for different teams, but luckily after my tryout with Hannover Korbjaeger they offered me a contract.


What is one of the biggest surprises about your time in Germany so far?

I definitely know what it feels like to be a foreigner now. Growing up in St. Paul Minnesota there were a lot of Somali immigrants and I think I’m better understanding what foreigners go through.

Like simple stuff, not being able to walk up to someone on the street and ask for directions, is crazy.


What is something you know now that you could tell “young Adam”?

My work ethic is something that is a great quality about my personality, but sometimes I was so focused when I was younger that I didn’t take the time to enjoy the moment. I would just tell myself to really take the time to appreciate the special moments in life while maintaining my focus.

Arete Logo 10

Coaching Tips: Preparing for the Season Ahead

A big thanks to Ash McCormick for taking the time to give us his thoughts for this piece. Ash has been involved in basketball as either a coach or player for the majority of his life. He played for several years as a professional in Perth’s State Basketball League and also gained experience playing for Missouri Baptist and Southwest Baptist University in the United States. His playing career was cut short by a series of unfortunate knee injuries, but he has stayed involved with basketball by coaching numerous teams in Perth, AU – including youth and professional level teams – and investing in players through workouts and development. On a personal note, Ash has been a huge asset in my development as a player and student of the game. I have benefited greatly from his wisdom and insight. 10646678_697687700324651_3764398252830865370_n

Strengths and Weaknesses 

Without getting too philosophical here, knowing, in a general sense, the strengths and weaknesses of the playing group gives a coach a big head start in knowing how to structure pre-season. Do you have guards who are dangerous off the pick and roll? Do you have a dominant big/s? Are you a long and athletic team? All of these things can determine what systems and philosophy are best suited for your team. So, try to gain an understanding of the weapons you have as your best starting point for systems.



Organisation and planning are paramount to having a successful preseason. As a coach you want to have a vision of where you would like your team to be come game 1 of the season. Then you want to develop your preseason plan in phases to build towards that vision. This should include your philosophy of how you want your team to play and the type of culture you want to create. You should also develop a reference to your groups identified strengths and weaknesses and how you will use their strengths in a specific way, as well as minimise/work on weaknesses. It’s important that the coach be able to articulate this vision to all the relevant personnel whether it be club reps, assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and the players.

—> (authors note) Speaking practically to the issue of organisation and efficiency of managing your basketball team. Check out TeamSnap (which I have personally used) which can be hugely helpful in streamlining the organisation of your season. Check them out here.


Practice Development

Practice plans are the individual building blocks you will use to lay on your foundation for the rest of the season. Always address both defensive and offensive principles in each session. Phasing offense and Defense into completely seperate parts of the preseason creates an environment where growth is disjointed and that growth can be deceptive! If you spend the first month just working solely Defense it will appear your Defense is strong, but in reality having done no work against structured offense, your Defense is not preparing for what it will likely face in the season. Likewise in reverse, offense developed against unstructured Defense is a false economy. Work on both in each session and let them sharpen and develop each other evenly. Always commit a portion of your session to live play. This is where the players have the opportunity to implement the drills and breakdowns you have gone through into a live game-like setting. This will help the players transfer those skills into game situations.


The Pulse of Your Team

Practice plans are a guide, don’t get caught up in making sure every drill is done in each session. Tune yourself to your group. Sometimes your group will excel in a drill and staying in it too long is counterproductive, holding them back from advancing to other concepts. Always have some extra drills or scrimmage time available to counter balance this. Conversely there will be times your group may need extra time to grasp certain concepts and it’s important to your group that you don’t skip ahead before they have grounded those skills.

Arete Logo 10

Q&A: Lee Roberts on Life, Pro Ball, and Hoop Dreams

Lee Roberts has been a professional ball player since he graduated from Findlay University in 2009. He has played in countries all over the globe including: Germany, Australia, Venezuela, and Argentina. His 4 years at Findlay University set the stage for his success as a professional, where he learned the value of hard work, consistency, and teamwork.

His team lost only 12 games in 4 years at Findley and Lee’s senior season ended the way all athletes dream of finishing their careers. The Oilers finished the season 36-0 en route to winning the NCAA II national championship. Lee currently plays for Olimpico LB, one of the top teams in Argentina. He sat down with us to discuss life, hoops, and his journey as a professional.

by: Findlay Athletics
by: Findlay Athletics

Lee, thanks for taking a few minutes to hang out with Arete Hoops today, I think people will really appreciate hearing about your journey. To start off tell us a little bit about where you grew up and how you ended up playing basketball for Findlay U.

Well it’s always funny answering this question, both of my parents were in the army. I was born in Seattle but was only there until I was 7 and then we moved to Alaska. We were there for about 2 and half years and until we moved to Cleveland, Ohio. I was in Cleveland for middle school and high school.

I went to Midpark High School right outside of Cleveland, we had one of the best classes to ever go through that school for basketball. That’s where I got my recognition from Findlay.

Got ya. Did you know all along that you wanted to play ball in college or what was the recruiting process like for you?

I was actually recruited for high jump, I was waiting for a couple of schools to ask about basketball and then Findlay offered me a full scholarship. I went to visit them and I was sold.

How did you deal with the transition from high school ball to college? What areas of your game/approach to the game changed during your 4 years?

Well I had a great coach to start with. And my team was all about winning so I had some great examples to look up too. There was a lot of pressure to be good and it took work to get up to speed in the system.

I think that my aggressiveness and tenacity is what changed the most and the guys on my team in college changed the way I looked at basketball. I think it became a hunger then.

Sounds like you had special team culture, what were some characteristics of that team that set you guys apart?

It’s hard to describe, we knew each other in and out, on and off the court, and we held each other responsible in the same regard. There were 6 freshmen that came in my year, one redshirted so there were 5 that were seniors that stayed together through the 4 years.

It was like a family, we only lost 12 games over 4 years.

by: Ohio Hall of Fame
by: Ohio Hall of Fame

That’s incredible. So after having such a great college experience was the choice to play professionally an easy decision?

Well I wanted to play but it wasn’t easy to get a first job.

I’ve been there…

When I was looking for a job, a coach told me that you have to act like a professional before you become one. Can you relate to that advice? What was your first pro job like?

Well it’s a little bit of a longer story; I signed with an agent from Germany which was the first call I got. It was a Wednesday, he asked if I could be in France in Friday. Of course I got right to it and was there on Saturday because of some passport issues. I got to the team and the first thing the coach said it’s you aren’t 6’10’’!

After about 2 weeks I got cut and then went on a train with everything I owned to go to Germany to stay with my agent.

European coaches are paranoid about height…

The height thing is crazy in Europe.

I tried out for about 4 teams and money was always the issue. I landed at Bayern Munich for a month and then had an injury and was cut again after that.

Wow sounds like you had some tough luck starting out.3131108_1_O

Yeah it was bad.

I finally went to a 3rd league team in Braunschweig.

Well to start off in 3rd league Germany and end up in first league Argentina is a pretty significant accomplishment. What were the things that helped you make that jump?

God really, trusting that God would bless me. After my first year pro I went to live with a girlfriend and I worked landscaping in my college town. Motivation to make something of the talent I was gifted.

So I worked. Hard.

Any advice that you would give other aspiring players that has helped you along the way?

Everyone has their own path, but talk to God about it. That way you can’t go wrong. And really, hard work and dedication will always help you to be the best you can be.

I don’t want to sound cliché, but hard work pays off.



Arete Logo 10