Closer to My Dream
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro just finished the most historic season in the school history. Diante Baldwin, the teams senior leader and go to clutch player sat at his locker in the Carrier Dome after a difficult defeat to Syracuse University in the first round of the NIT.
There were still many emotions and thoughts running through his head. As he sat there in the locker room looking at his teammates disappointed and frustrated from the loss that marked the end of their season and Diante collegiate career, he began to grow proud. Obviously, the season didn’t end the way Diante or teammates had hoped, but he couldn’t be more proud of everything the team and him had accomplished this past season. He was able to help change the culture and help stir the program back into a positive direction, but now as his college career was officially over what’s was next?
Too, Diante, the answer to that questions was simple; he has known what he wanted to do since he was five years old. While his other senior peers, were preparing themselves for internship and entry level job positions, Diante was focused one thing, becoming a professional basketball player. Over the next few months, My Hoop Journey follows Diante as he goes the process of becoming a professional basketball player.
Graduation Day was a special day for Diante and his family. For his parents, it was a dream come true to watch their son as he accepted his diploma and walked across the stage as a college graduate. For Diante, it had a different significance; it was not only the official end to his college career but also marked the beginning to a new chapter in his life. He said, “getting his diploma gave him a sense of relief, after four years working hard in the both classroom and the basketball court, becoming a college graduate was a huge accomplishment.” Now it allowed Diante to focus solely on basketball and put himself in a position to accomplish his goal of signing his first professional contract.
Growing up in Greensboro, NC, everything Diante has done up to this point has been in preparation to play pro basketball. With goals in mind to have a successful career and win championships, Diante has used his relationship with his many mentors to understand what it will take to accomplish his professional goals. One of those mentors, NBA All-Star Point Guard Chris Paul serves as constant motivation for Diante. Diante grew up playing for Chris Paul’s AAU team the CP3 All-Stars. Diante flew to LA to spend some time with CP3 and to watch some Clippers game. Diante ultimate goal is to one day join CP3 in the league, but for now, he will play in Europe and hopefully use his strong play there to springboard himself to the NBA.
The first steps in the process were to hire a sports agent to represent him and help him secure his first professional job. An agent is a crucial part of having a successful career, especially in overseas basketball. The agent works as the representative of the player and the team and negotiates the terms of the player contract. Usually the bigger the agent’s network, the better the opportunity for the player to get signed in different markets or countries. So many players want to start their career with a well-established agent.
Diante spoke with several agents but found the process to be stressful as he wasn’t sure which agents to trust or who was going to have his best interest in mind. He decided the best way to find out which agents were serious was to ask them to come to Greensboro and meet with him and his family. A select few came to, and Diante and his family interviewed each of them, and Diante tried to get a feel of who he felt most comfortable. He decided to sign with Michael Hart of Hart Sports Mangement. He felt that Hart Sports Management knew his as a player and had the best planned for mapped out for him.
Diante began working on his game and preparing himself for his first professional season. He started by reviewing game tapes from his past season and began figuring out his flaws and what areas he needed to improve. He wanted to increase the range on his jump shot, tighten up his handle and to work on his strength and condition. He developed a routine with former UNCG player Kayel Locke who just came back from his season playing professional where they would work on their strength and condition in the morning and then in the evening worked on basketball drills. He also traveled to Miami to participate in the Taylor Sports Group “Summertime Grind” professional summer training camp along with some other overseas and NBA pros. He said he learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence playing against established overseas pros.
He then attended the Michael Hart Exposure Camp in Las Vegas, where he would compete against other overseas rookies and free agents in front of scouts from teams in Europe. Diante impressed and ended making the All Rookie Team and All Camp honors. Although he got excellent feedback from the camp, he was still unsigned and began to get anxious.
Finally, after a few weeks, Diante received his first professional contract offer from AZS Koszalin in Poland. He immediately decided to sign and just like that all Diante dreams came true. All the work, long hours in the gym and sacrifice had paid off. Diante describes the feeling as indescribable, something he was dreaming about since he was Five years old. All he is ever wanted was the opportunity and realization that he was officially a professional basketball player.
Preparing for a new life in Poland was going to be a different transition for Diante. He had many questions, What should he pack, What is like in Poland going to be like? What about the team and his new teammates? This would be Diante first time leaving his hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. The first time he was be leaving the comforts of his family and friends. He knew the transition wouldn’t be easy, but this is the opportunity that he been working for his whole life.
The first steps a long and successful hoop journey.