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How WCT Hoops is creating space and giving back to the game


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Ransford Brempong and Jarryn Skeete of WCT Hoops on the need for more Black coaches and the duty they feel to give back to the next generation
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ansford Brempong had already done plenty in the game when he decided to start his own basketball program, West Coast Training, in 2017. Born in Winnipeg and raised in Toronto, he played for the Canadian senior national team and professionally overseas before brief stints in the NBL and CEBL — a career that would’ve been nearly impossible to imagine when he was first falling in love with the sport as a kid.

It was during his lone year in the NBL that Brempong met Jarryn Skeete, a guard who’d played high-school ball with the likes of Andrew Wiggins and turned in a four-year NCAA run at Buffalo before putting together a pro career of his own. The two soon formed a friendship, bonding over their shared high-IQ, workmanlike approach to the game. When the season ended, they knew they wanted to continue collaborating, but with Brempong’s playing career drawing to a close, their partnership had to take a new form. With Skeete coming aboard in 2019, the heart of WCT Hoops was formed.

Based out of Vancouver, the program offers one-on-one training, seasonal camps and coaching for elite players of all backgrounds. It’s Brempong and Skeete’s way of giving back to the sport that’s given them so much, and to push boundaries in the game.

The two sat down in late January to discuss the hurdles they faced in their playing careers, their desire to see more Black coaches in high-level environments and the work they continue to do to help grow the game.

TAGWA MOYO: To start off, let’s talk about your first memories with basketball. How did you fall in love with the game?

JARRYN SKEETE: I played soccer growing up. At eight years old, I won a championship in soccer. And I remember rushing over to my basketball tournament across the city and then winning there, too. Everybody was really making fun of me; they made a joke about how I wore my slippers from the soccer field right to the basketball game. Back in the day, it wasn’t really a thing to wear socks and sandals. It was kind of a baller thing. So my basketball and my soccer teammates used to make fun of me.

RANSFORD BREMPONG: I was born in Winnipeg, and I grew up in Toronto in the ‘90s. I was in that whole Jordan era. I remember my earliest memory — I don’t know, for whatever reason, it’s almost embarrassing to say, but I wasn’t hating on Jordan — I remember rooting for Charles Barkley and talking smack to my cousins and then watching the [1993 NBA Finals] and just being like, ‘Damn, this guy’s different!’ I just fell in love with the way Jordan played the game. And then my own individual earliest memory, I remember going out to my trials in Grade 9 and kind of not taking it too seriously. I wanted to be on the team just for, like, clout and then getting cut. And that was sort of what got me hungry for the game. Because just having that failure early on really sparked my whole ambition for the game. Just trying to prove everybody wrong and to not have that feeling again.

So how did you get to playing professionally?

BREMPONG: After getting cut, I went back to the drawing board. I started working on my game a little bit more. I put in a lot of work and then also I got blessed with how I grew that summer. So I grew from, like, you know, five-foot-10 to six-foot-five! And then I came back a different player. I was like, ‘I’m never going to let anyone outwork me.’ And coming up in Toronto, I ended up getting a scholarship. After my last year of high school, I went to a school called Western Carolina University, where I played for five years. By the end of my college career, I’d broken a couple of records. I was a shot blocker at the time, and I put my name on the record books at the same time I started playing on the national team. After I got done college, I ended up going out to Europe. I got my first contract in the Netherlands, and I played out there in Holland for three or four years. And then I played in Germany in the Bundesliga for two years as well. I got injured and retired. I had a family, stayed home for about five, six years, and then I ended up playing again two more times later on in my career. When I was about 38, I played two more half-seasons. That’s where I met Skeete.

SKEETE: My story is similar. We both grew up playing basketball in the early Toronto scene. I’m 10 years younger, so there are things that I would say were an advantage to me; that coming out around this area is a little bit different. My story is a little bit different in that I had a daughter when I was in Grade 11 — something I think a lot of people don’t know about me — that was a huge part of what kept me going. So I played in high school with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis. I got noticed by a couple prep schools in the States. I ended up going to a couple of different offers. I chose Buffalo University, which is a D1 close to the border, because I had my daughter. I left in high school to be able to get that opportunity. After college, I ended up playing pro, had a small stint where I got a little taste of Europe and it was done quickly. I was there for, like, two months, then came home and I finished my last two years in Canada.


How did you two meet?

SKEETE: I was playing in St John’s [with the NBL’s St. John’s Edge]. And like Rans said, he had retired. I’m a basketball lifer at this moment, and you get those calls and you kind of just can’t say no. So he ends up pulling up to St John’s and I’m already there. The season’s crazy. We’re in the middle and we’re having new teammates every week. We’re winning games, but we’re all the way in the furthest part of Eastern Canada you could be. So it was cool, but what we really had was a strong bond between the guys. So he’s coming on like, what was it? A month and a half to two months or so [into the season]. At this point, anyone who’s coming in, like, we’re not trying to hear no new teammates! I mean, he shows up, six-foot-eight and dreads. I love the game and I’ve always had a high IQ, so right away I’m like, national team dude; six-foot-eight; he’s playing at 36 years old. I’m 26. I’m like, I want to know how the hell you’re even still in shape to play and, kind of, your story and who you are. So right away I saw that he was a little bit confused at the plays and what we had going on. Like I said, we were, call it 10 to 15 games in; we already had our flow of things. So I went up beside him and I was like, ‘I’m the backup. Don’t let anyone else confuse you. Let me just tell you how this thing works right here.’ So from there, I think he kind of realized that we had a similar vibe in terms of being social, being leaders, and then kind of took me under his wing.

Coaching is still an aspect of the game lacking representation. Why do you think that is? Did you have many coaches that looked like you through the course of your playing careers?

BREMPONG: Yeah. My first high school coach was Black. He came with this whole swag and the way he did it, he was just himself. He wasn’t trying to be anyone else. And, in college I had assistant coaches who were Black. I didn’t have a head coach that was Black. The common theme that I’ll say I’ve noticed is that I played at a lot of high levels as well, like national team [and] European levels. And it seemed as you were going higher up that ladder, the amount of Black people in those spaces seemed to trickle down. Now, you know, like I said, I had a few coaches that were Black. When I went to college in 2000, the number of college head coaches that were Black seemed to become less and less. Oftentimes the Black man gets limited or gets capped in terms of how high you can go. You can’t go all the way to the top. Like, are we telling Black men that you’re allowed to be in positions of leadership only up to a certain point, but then you can’t also go to be the owner? And so I’m trying to make it so that when my kids come up, I’m not just telling them, ‘Either you can just be the player or maybe you can be the assistant coach and, you know, if you get there, be happy.’ No shooting for the stars? That’s not the sort of legacy I want to leave for my kids!

SKEETE: Like Rans said, it just needs to be more normalized that it’s possible to be a Black coach or a Black head coach or a Black GM or a Black president of a team, instead of it just being only an assistant coach or a skills trainer. I think it should be more the perception that it’s possible to do anything, especially if you’re Black. There needs to be way more coaches. We’re slowly getting there, but it’s still nowhere near as much as it should be. I’m not saying that someone who isn’t Black can’t understand you, but there’s nothing like having somebody that looks exactly like you [in a position of power and leadership].

When was the first time you thought to yourself, “I want to be a coach”?

BREMPONG: For me, it was more so a passion thing. If you’re passionate about something in life, whatever it is that you’re passionate about, it’s your responsibility to your fellow human beings to share that with someone else who is passionate in that same way. When you have a passion and all this expertise, it’s like you have this currency. It’s not manmade; it’s not money, it’s not like a paper dollar. But if I have this currency that I’ve acquired through this passion, like money, I have to spend it on something. It’s great to be able to share that with the next generation coming up. Yes, where we are, we work with everyone here, you know, in B.C. and Vancouver. But as a Black man, I do feel like I have that extra responsibility when I see a young Black man, to let them know that they have the ability to do all these things.

SKEETE: I think one of the biggest things for the younger generation is what we call a knowledge of self. And it goes to what he was saying before. Black people, we’ve kind of, I want to say, been lied to. Yeah, we have been lied to about who we are. Not to say that we’re any better than anyone else, but we all come from the original place. And Black people originated as kings, queens and creators and builders and things of that sort. Like this word is so beautiful and Black people had an equal hand in making it as beautiful as it is. And I feel like we need to teach young kids the knowledge of self, to realize who you are and what your true potential is. If you can’t see it, you can’t do it, you can’t be it!

Tell me about some of the struggles you faced coming up as Black coaches.

SKEETE: I think it’s more just because of people subconsciously not realizing that you, like, attach an image to the person who’s saying things to you. So sometimes, as Black coaches, we say something, the exact same thing as someone else [might] and it goes over the kid’s head because of the way we look.

BREMPONG: Yeah, I know that he’s dead-on with that. So it’s like when I’m dealing with people on a day-to-day [basis] I grow. The majority of our coaching is in North Vancouver. I understand that, of the amount of people that these kids are seeing that look like me, I am potentially the first one that’s actually talked to them in a way that is trying to hold them accountable. Right? It’s never been done before. And I think a lot of these kids, they’re great kids, but there is a [mental] block that they have to get through. There is some work that they have to get through to realize that this coach really is trying to help me out and this coach is telling me good stuff for me. You know, he’s trying to push me, and I have to be able to take that and internalize it.


Two Black men working together and building! Why is it important for Black people to work together to help uplift one another?

SKEETE: We’re here for the community. I think because we both love basketball, we’re using basketball as a tool and a vehicle. But the most important thing is we’re here to give back and teach everybody, but also through teaching ourselves first. That’s what it’s all about. You got to know who you are to help other people. And that’s the message we want to push. And it just happens that basketball right now is the way we can kind of take off that blindfold and make you see that like, ‘Hey, we’re all the same here.’

BREMPONG: So that’s sort of where WCT Hoops came about. And you know, our relationship, our friendship, just being sort of this unit that’s brought this thing to [the level it’s at] in BC and in Vancouver. But really, it was all about just putting it into action, giving value to the community. And both of us also being young Black men, there was something powerful in that.

Photo Credits

Tagwa Moyo/Sportsnet (6)


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