Welcome to February’s Rule Your Nation Awards! This month we have a basketball player from my beloved home state who has a few things to say about Connecticut’s basketball culture. We also have a bodybuilder who has done great things in a short amount of time. Without more delay, here is the first interview.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the East End of Waterbury, CT.
You’ve become quite the ball player, but did you always play basketball as a kid?
Yeah, I played in middle school, high school, and college.
Where did you play in high school?
I played for Crosby High School.
And where did you play for college?
Loyola Marymount University.
What is the basketball scene like in Waterbury?
Man, very, very competitive. Waterbury produces a lot of guards, and I’m a guard, so you can imagine growing up the amount of battle you have with different guys in the city. It’s very competitive and guard-heavy.
So what style of play is Waterbury’s known for?
It’s not fancy or finesse. We just got the job. We don’t have the identity of being super fancy.
Can you give an example of a Waterbury ball player you watched growing up who could make you say, “That’s a Waterbury ball player!”
PJ Montero. He was that guy in front of me who everyone looked up to.
When did you know you could excel in basketball?
Probably around my sophomore year of high school. I saw my game take another step and I realized I could do something with basketball.
What inspired you to pursue a professional basketball career?
Just the passion I had inside me. The love of the game , my goals and everything I want to happen to make those dreams manifest, and being able to be in a position to provide for me family and inspire others.
Was there any player after whom you modeled your game and why?
Allen Iverson. He was just that icon that inspiration I grew up with, a little guy in the court picking on the giants and not backing down.
As a product of CT basketball, what do you think your home state’s ballplayers are most known for?
We produce a lot of talent. We’re under the radar when it comes to talent. We have a lot of hidden gems come out of here.
Do you feel like CT ball players get enough credit or exposure?
I would say we don’t get recognized as much as other East Coast areas. When you mention East coast basketball you think of New York, New Jersey or Baltimore, but Connecticut has produced a lot of guys that can go.
Is there anything you think you can do to bring more attention to CT basketball?
I developed a AI3 basketball Academy for younger kids 9-15 year olds, training them and trying to inspire them to pursue a career in basketball. Hopefully that plants some seeds in kids heads and get some more guys some free education out of Waterbury and Connecticut.
How important is it for Waterbury kids to get that free education?
Just Waterbury in general is not a really wealthy area. So when you’re able to put yourself in a position to go to school and have it be free, that releases a lot of stress on the mother and the family. When that’s an option, you’ve done your part.
What’s your greatest achievement on the court?
Scoring 2,000 points in the West Coast Conference for Loyola Marymount.
Why that one in particular?
There was a lot of history with Bo Kimble and those guys[ back]when Loyola Marymount was really jumping.[There were]a lot of records that I was chasing or just happened to pass. That kept me motivated. To leave LMU holding a record was a great accomplishment.
Who do you play for now?
I just left a club in Greece. Arkadikos.
What was it like playing in Greece?
It was a small transition. I had to get adjusted to their style of play and their style of coaching and all that. It was a coach’s league. The coaches had a lot of control of the game and the plays and stuff. I mean, I enjoyed it. It was just another test that I had to figure out. I had to grow as a player to be honest.
What part of your game needed to grow the most?
Just being able to master the mental side of the game. Being able to find ways to succeed when I’m against different battles and different things throughout the game. Being able to stay mentally focused and locked in.
If you had one piece advice for someone who views you as a role model, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Every lesson has something bigger at the end of the tunnel.
If you had one piece of advice for your past self back in Waterbury, what would you say?
There’s a lot of distractions that will come in your way on the path to success. You’ve just got to stay focused and manifest those dreams.
When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?
Being able to have control or taking control of your destiny. Providing yourself with the right things mentally, spiritually, physically for yourself to succeed, not just on the court, but in life. Rule your world and succeed.
Where are you from?
Los Angeles, California born and raised.
Were you very athletic growing up?
I’m 5-foot-2, so no height sports! I did swimming and tennis. Even as an adult I did big tennis tournaments. Then I stopped playing sports for 10 years because I was in corporate America.
When was your first time weightlifting?
My first time was three years ago because of that stereotype of looking like a man. In hindsight, I should’ve started years [sooner].
So when did you start seriously bodybuilding?
I was just thrown into it. About two and a half years ago, I did a show on two weeks notice. I got second, and now I’m into it.
What’s the hardest part about bodybuilding?
The mental part. You must fight through. You’re tired but you have to push through when you’re on your last carb. Also, living a balanced life.
What’s your greatest achievement?
I would say getting my pro card last July.
You were first in your weight class in power lifting. What’s your favorite lift?
My deadlift. I just deadlifted 460 pounds this past weekend.
What advice do you have for anyone who views you as a role model?
Don’t put limitations on yourself. Just try it and be consistent. Consistency is key.
Have you ever put limits on yourself that you had to overcome?
My trainer used to say, “Lift this amount.” I would say it’s too heavy, and my trainer ripped me a new one. Self-doubt is so crippling. I don’t doubt myself anymore.
Any advice for your past self?
Just do it. Just suck it up and do it. It’s never too late to start something new.
When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?
You rule yourself. You have control over what you do and don’t do. You set your own limits in life.
Both of this month’s award winners practice completely different fields, but they have one thing in common. They never gave up and they weren’t afraid to fail. I hope you take that with you as you pursue your dreams too.
Rule well, my friends.