Monday, June 1, 2015

Area Power Brokers: The Most Powerful & Influential Basketball Minds in Grassroots in the DMV

 BY: Jason Duffie
 Staff Writer DMV Preps

One of the most used words in the youth basketball world is “politics”; the reality is that on various levels this is a statement that rings true on multiple levels.  The reality is that much of the movement on the hoop scene is by people who haven’t made a basket in years – some never in their entire lives.
Speaking candidly, if you look closely at the various forces at work in basketball at every level of the sport—the AAU programs that funnel players to college programs, the agents looking to land players as early as NBA rules allow, the shoe companies, coaches, franchise owners, front-office executives, players—it eventually dawns on you that they have one thing in common: 


Exposure and introduction, even validation to the various networks that have been established over time dictate a high percentage of opportunities and access.  These individuals have proven track records of creating opportunities at the next level and beyond.

Keith Stevens
      1.      Keith Stevens (Team Takeover, Program Director) -  One of the misconceptions is that Stevens never played the game; but the 5’6 spark plug played on the 1991 and 1992 Forestville High School team that won back-to-back state championships.  One of the best characters in all of grassroots basketball; he is more than style he is substance.  Production?  NBA draft picks including Victor Oladipo, Erick Green and Jerami Grant – with one to two more in the coming months validates his process.  Power? Since 2007 at least 8 players per year have received D1 scholarships. Influence?  Georgetown, Syracuse, Maryland, Virginia, George Washington, George Mason have players as well as coaches from his stable. One of the areas primary points of contact for College Coaches is Stevens, with the addition of his Sport Management Company his ceiling remains high.

Hanif Hill
      2.      Hanif Hill (Under Armor Scout/Trainer) – Hill currently trains many of the areas top local players and has worked with NBA stars Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Ty Lawson amongst others.  Coached at Cardoza HS from 2003 to 2007 and has longtime deep rooted relationships in the area. Unquestionable he’s one of the most sought after trainers in the DMV, and he regularly hosts top players from across the nation at his workouts – this includes high school, college, and pro.  His evaluation and influence go beyond the shoe brand as he trains all top players, but without question his voice and player endorsement is more than powerful at UA as he makes sure their events are filled with the best of the best.

Van Johnson

      3.      Van Johnson (NIKE Regional Scout) – A fixture in the areas basketball scene for over two decades his fingerprints can be found on the legendary Nike Pro City Summer (HS/College-Pro) Leagues on the campus of Georgetown University, NIKE Peach Jam Invitational and sits on the selection committee for the McDonalds All-American game, Jordan Brand Classic, and the NIKE Skill Academy’s – his national scouting background is respected throughout the country and his contacts, “arms”, and influence reach further than anyone can imagine.

Dwayne Wise
  4.      Dwayne Wise (Team Melo, Recruiting Coordinator & Operations Director) – Tied to one of the most high profile NBA players in the league Carmelo Anthony; Wise has the distinct advantage of the dual sponsorship of NIKE and Jordan Brand as do the players within the program.  Founder of the I95 Challenge, Wise is also a primary DMV contact for colleges; having worked with a bevy of both D1 and NBA players.  He has mentored and guided several top 100 to 150 student athletes in the Baltimore area.  His west coast connections in the PAC 12 and Mountain West are unparalleled in the area; as is his relationship with USA Basketball – having placed multiple players in the system and on the team.  Combine this with the NIKE Camp and circuit access and it’s only natural that Wise is a major player in the game in the area and a major voice on the east coast.

Chris Lawson
      5.      Chris Lawson (DMV Elite, President) -  Operating independently of any shoe company affiliation as an event management source and scouting service Lawson is looked upon as a unbiased resources for individuals looking for talent and players looking for opportunity in the basketball hotbed of the DMV.   Recently having taken over the area’s premier annual all-star event, the Capitol Classic, Lawson has added this event to many tournaments that draw several college eyes including unsigned senior events – making his operations valuable to large numbers in the area.  The provision of scouting reports and resources along with his words, thoughts, and opinions can go a long way independently or as third party validation for players in the area.  Without question Lawson’s MVP is Marcus Helton, he handles much of the video media, over sight, and is a fixture at event providing coverage and social media.  This tag team collectively must be respected and a mover and shaker as they make in road with their tournament HS tournament series to becoming a national name.  Until then they are one of the best doing it in the DMV.

Damon Handon
Damon Handon (DC Premier, Program Director) – Curtis Malone was the king of the Hill and his power, influence, contacts, collegian and pro players placement was unrivaled in the DMV.  His relationships and rolodex alone would have placed him in the #1 spot by a mile.  Without him at the helm in steps Handon, who too has extensive experience, has assume the reigns and continues to make an impact amongst the many challenges he has had to face in recent years.  National Champion Quinn Cook, Melo Trimble and Rodney Peters are two recent success stories that can be combined with names such as Michael Beasley and Nolan Smith are only a small portion of players that Handon was involved with either directly or indirectly.  The success of placement of former coaches into the college ranks is also a big indicator of Handon and the programs power/influence.  With a different name, same brand, the challenge is the establishment of a separate identity – nothing a few pros, scholarships, and front page news can’t change.

Bill Francis
      7.      Bill Francis/Coach Francis (USA National Select, Director/National Scout & Media) – Ranked as one the Top 10 Most Powerful Men in middle school basketball nationally; he is one of the DMV’s most valuable resources at the grassroots level. Francis has managed to recreate the entire high school system at the middle school level.  He has introduced to the DMV training, camps, tournaments, player, rankings, evaluations, networks and relationships that have created national exposure and opportunity for kids entering high school and in some cases at the college level for those he believes to translate at an early stage.  An endorsement by Francis has value nationally; his is a call that gets answered.  With every HS Coach in the area on speed dial Francis works with both sides to help as many coaches, players, and parents as possible.  Still relatively young in the game his diverse approach to the game as allowed his to either touch, coach, view, or train the very best players in the area. With the upcoming Middle School All-American game he continues to build a platform previously unavailable to players at such a young age.

Michael Brown
      8.      A. Michael Brown (DC Thunder President/General Manager) – Quickly becoming one of the most impressive and well run organization in the DMV; Brown is building the right way with class, integrity, and professionalism.  Having put together one of the most impressive staffs in the area made up of former D1 players, basketball lifers, and excellent business and basketball minds.  His team has exponentially grown the organization in a very short time and Brown and the Thunder are players who will be here to stay.  The program works under the Adidas umbrella and Brown himself formerly sat on the selection committees for the Adidas ABCD Camp and the Magic Johnson Roundball Classic when they existed.  With a sport management background Brown disseminates his knowledge to his entire organization working as a skill developer and mentor while handling the Thunders day-to-day operations.

PK Martin
      9.      P.K Martin (Men’s Basketball National Chair) - Martin has operated in conjunction with arguably the biggest brand in all of basketball, the Armature Athletic Union (AAU), for over 30 years.  He is currently the Governor of Potomac Valley District and was recently named as the Men’s Basketball National Chair.  There are very few players who haven’t competed in the world of AAU; hence PK Martin has had hundreds of pro’s, college players, McDonalds All-Americans, Jordan Brand All-Stars compete in his events.  His is a virtual encyclopedia of basketball, his wealth of knowledge and history is invaluable and now his title and influence match that.  He too is a local assets with national power.

Mark Karcher
      10 (TIE).  Mark Karcher (Bmore’s Finest, Executive Director) -  A local player who went 99-24 in his four years at St. Frances HS in Baltimore and then went on to star at Temple University winning rookie of the year and advancing to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.  After receiving A10 First Team Honors Karcher was drafted #48 by the NBA’s 76ers; Karcher knows what it takes because he made it there and played on that level – putting in several years overseas.  He has coached the game at his alma mater and was inducted into the Baltimore Catholic League Hall of Fame.  As a program director he possesses the magic key to the circuit having established a backyard relationship with Under Armor.  His history and track record in a basketball rich area combined with the aforementioned makes him a player and a valuable asset in getting to the next level.

Keith Williams
      10. Keith Williams (Trainer/ DC Blue Devils Program Director)  - Quality over quantity; Williams has worked with and continues to work with some of the best players to ever come out of the area.  We are not talking about marginal talent, we are talking high major D1 players and lottery picks.  We are talking about hands on training with the likes of Steve Francis, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley to name a few.  Is current stud may be following in the footsteps as he quickly becoming the most sought after prospect in the DMV, current WCAC player of the year Markel Fultz.  His old school simplistic training style continues to produce results decades later.  One of the most respected and soft spoken gentlemen in the game – his work, contributions to the game, and ability and knowledge to systematically build not just players but the superstars must be noted and honored.  The man you never see or hear from is still in the lab cooking, beating his trainees one on one were only 3 dribbles are allowed.  Add his program director title of the DC Blue Devils and the recent deal with UA proves he can still make things happen.  His is a call that still must be taken and information dissected; a local legend whose status in the DMV can never be question.

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