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.
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.
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.
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.