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. 

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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.

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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.

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The Arete Manifesto – Why we Exist

The Arete Manifesto 

What is Arete Hoops? Who are we? What do we stand for? Why do we exist? Why should you care about what we have to say?

Put simply, Arete Hoops believes basketball can change your life because it has changed ours. We think basketball and sports have serious power: they have the ability to transform you, shape you, and mold you into a better basketball player and person. We want to give anyone who will listen the chance to consider these ideas because we want to give everyone a chance to make their dreams come true.

Our approach to basketball is a philosophy, a specific set of ideals. We have crafted this ideology through personal experience, by making observations in our lives, and building on the ideas of thinkers who express these ideas much better than we do.

Our Mission is Simple: We think the world can be changed through the game of basketball. We know there are coaches and players who want to make a difference. We know leaders are powerful. We want to question the status quo. We want to think differently. We want to consider the traditional ideas of how to approach the game of basketball and take the path less traveled.

If you choose to read it, this is the Arete Hoops philosophy; our manifesto, the good stuff, the nuts and bolts of what we believe. We hope these ideas resonate with you and ultimately help change you for the better. We hope you make a decision to abandon a life of mediocrity and start walking the path of excellence. If you have the desire to…

  • Walk the path less traveled
  • Commit yourself to an uncommon standard of excellence
  • Develop your leadership capability
  • Question the status quo
  • Approach the game of basketball differently
  • Make a Difference

 

Then take 5 minutes and consider these ideas and make a determination for yourself. Download the PDF below to get started.

The Path of Excellence is open to anyone who decides to take it…will you start your journey today???

 

The Arete Manifesto

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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.

 

[optinform]

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