2014 Drew League – Coach Profile: Keion Kindred

By: Otha Nevels

Whether it’s the iPhone 5 or Jay-Z’s Magna Carter Holy Grail, as consumers we see the finished product. We play with the gadgets, we listen to the music, but often times we never stop to think of how. Even in the world of sports, more specifically basketball how is the first question that comes to fans’ minds. After Game 2 of the League Finals, LeBron James eluded to just that, “I trust the hard work and dedication I put into the game, its my job to translate what i do when y’all are not around to the big stage. It’s just a matter of coming out and doing what I practiced on.” Basketball has become a year round sport. The best don’t stop playing once the season concludes. The word “off-season” simply means a break from the strenuous season schedule.

For years people thought Michael Jordan was born on Planet Hoop. How else was he able to fly through the air ever so gracefully? How was he able to have his way with defenders not in and night out on the basketball court? In short he was blessed with out of this world talent and he worked or trained, rather, hard. Behind every great athlete is an even better trainer. Jordan had Tim Grover, and roughly 75% of the Drew has Keion Kindred.

To understand Kindred “the trainer” you first have to understand Keion Kindred “the player.” Kindred was a decorated prep player for nationally acclaimed Dominguez High School in Compton. Dominguez has been responsible for some of the best hoops players the state has produced. Such players as Cedric Ceballos, Kenny Bruner, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Thomas, Brandon Jennings, Jordan Hamilton, and Keilon Fortune. Not to mention Tyson Chandler, who was a teammate of Kindred during his sophomore year. Kindred and the Dons won the mythical national championship that year. As a junior (2000-01) he averaged nine points, seven rebounds and four assists per game; he was a third team “Dream Team” pick as Dominguez went 22-2 and won the California State Championship.That summer he was selected to play at USA Basketball Men’s Youth Development Festival, which also included the likes of Amare Stoudamire, Lebron James, and Carmelo Anthony.

Kindred was a part of three CIF State Championships while at Dominguez, affectionately known as the “D.” He had a chance to accomplish the same as Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson, who has won four consecutive state titles. Entering Kindred’s senior year, Dominguez High School became an exodus with the departures of future D1 signees as a result of uncertainty with the continued success of the program following a controversial sexual assault accusation with then head coach, Russell Otis. Kindred was indeed the last Don standing. Even with the drama he still was All-CIF and All-State, while averaging 23 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals per game. As a 6’4″, 220-pound point guard, he was recruited out of high school by UTEP, Oklahoma State, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and USC.

Kindred signed with UTEP, a school responsible for players like Tim Hardaway, but not exactly a powerhouse.

“There was a little bit of controversy with that being I was such a highly touted guard, and I choose UTEP for reasons that would later on come back to haunt me,” said Kindred. “Nonetheless the situation didn’t work out.”

Kindred would eventually go the junior college route and enrolled at Yavapai in Arizona. A talent like Kindred meant it did not matter where he played whether it be Division 1 or a juco, all he needed was a platform to display his skills. Kindred led Yavapai to the national tournament for junior colleges, and set the all-time assist record for the school.

“After going to junior college my sophomore year I was eligible for the NBA draft,” said Kindred. Right around that time a super athletic swing man out of Memphis, Qyntell Woods, was drafted 21st overall out of junior college. “I decided to go back to junior college. I didn’t have to. I had already qualified (academically in good standing) and I still had the big name schools recruiting me.Yet my junior college was number three in the nation so I felt good about going back.”

On the first day of school his sophomore year during an open gym no less, Kindred suffered a micro fracture in his right knee (think Amare Stoudamire) Today he would’ve missed some time but it would not have been as damaging as it was in 2004. “I ended up dealing with that. Rehabbing my sophomore year. At that time the science on that injury wasn’t to where it is now. We didn’t know the rehab, how long it would take to recover from it. Back then i just rehabbed half way. Just didn’t get healthy. I gained weight , I was over weight playing and I was still successful being I had a loaded team but personally I knew my body was starting to give up on me.”

After junior college Kindred would sign with Long Beach State University. He was expected to team up with Jabril Hodges and lead the 49ers to a Big West championship and much more, however fate would say other wise.

“I started my first nine games, and on the 10th or 11th game my legs gave out. I had to deal with another injury. I had to sit the rest of the season. I was able to come back towards the tail end of the season playing in the last seven games. It was pride. I knew I couldn’t play. I knew I was hurt, but I wanted to help my teammates out anyway I could. Regardless of what i could do. Whether it be play defense , get a rebound, make one good pass , or even play 3 minutes. I just wanted to help. We were making a playoff push and I just wanted to help.”

At this point it would have been acceptable for Kindred to throw a pity party. A player with an array of talent who seemed like he was invincible, averaging 13.4 minutes a game, 0.6 points per game, 1.2 assist per game, and 1.5 rebounds a game. What made him a stud of a player is what makes him and even better man: he never quit, he never stopped fighting and he was smart enough to use the resources that the game of basketball has provided him. Kindred redshirted his junior year, graduated and earned his degree.

Due to coaching changes at Long Beach State, Kindred was on the move again. This time landing at a lesser known D2 school in Missouri. “I was healthy. I lost weight. It was a medical miracle to be back on the court. Next thing you know, six games into the season I tore my ACL, and was done for the year.” While at Missouri Wesleyan, Kindred was working on his graduate degree and took a break from basketball.

During this break he was able to focus his mind on life outside of basketball. The NCAA granted him a medical hardship and he was granted a 6th year of eligibility. That year allowed him to finish grad school and obtain his Masters degree. Now, six years removed from a promising prep career Kindred had nothing to prove to anyone except himself.

“I came back that final year to play basketball one final time. It was the first time I was healthy in five or six years.”

Kindred indeed was physically healthy for the first time, however, injuries had began to take a toll on his psyche, “My confidence was completely shattered, I was a shell of myself. I wasn’t the player I use to be, and that’s when it kicked in. I wasn’t bitter but I lost my confidence.”

Ironically, he lost his confidence on the court but he remained in tact off the court. Even in the times of uncertainty and doubt. “Most people don’t realize it’s the mental part of injuries that get players. It was Keion versus Keion, and Keion wins every time.”

Kindred was the first hybrid athlete. He had the prototypical size of an NFL linebacker, but had a basketball in his hands. It’s surely understandable that if he wasn’t able to play at the level that he’s accustomed to that he would step away. “It just wasn’t fun anymore,” said Kindred.

Often times there is a lesson in tragedies. With every message, there’s a sub-message. For Kindred, the silver lining in his storm is training. The same attitude that propelled him to be one of the best prep players in the nation would be the same attitude that has propelled him to be one of the best trainers in the world. After his playing days were officially done, Kindred started Consistency leads to Currency (C.L.C).

“It’s not necessarily your generic basketball title, but it’s a life lesson. C.L.C is something you can take away from sports: if you don’t perform well on your job you don’t get paid,” said Kindred.

Kindred has learned from the best. Earlier i mentioned world renowned trainer Tim Grover. Grover has been instrumental in the careers of Jordan, Kobe, Wade, and now Kindred.

“I’ve been under Tim Grover for about two years now. He’s somewhat like a mentor, someone that I talk to frequently. He’s given me tidbits and pointers oh how to be successful. The one thing I took from him was being consistent about your goal.”

With Kindred’s C.L.C its much more. “My basketball background speaks volumes when it comes to training.” That background has made the difficult task of training his peers seemingly effortless. Vince “BodySnatcher” Camper is a feared and respected basketball player at The Drew. “The Bodysnatcher” does just that snatch bodies on the basketball court. He’s big, fast, and strong and has his way with the defense while playing quarterback on the court. From the Drew to overseas, to other leagues domestic, Camper’s skills have some questioning why he himself is not a part of the Association. “What makes Keion an effective trainer especially with this generation is that he played against most of his players. He was on his way to super stardom until injuries derailed his career. As players we trust what he says because he did it at a very high level. He’s helped with my confidence which comes from preparing.

My confidence in my jump shot is better and my conditioning has improved which is very important being a big guard. He is a straight shooter and doesn’t sugar coat anything but he still delivers his message in a motivating way. He’s mastered the art of critically motivating his guys which is hard to do,” said Camper. “How he lives his life is the biggest example because the best examples are non-verbal.”

Being a point guard has helped Kindred in his second career path more so than it helped in his first. As a point guard your job is get people involved. To set the table and keep everyone fed. You naturally look at the game differently.

Same can be said for the point guard now trainer, “Being a point guard is all about translating the game in another way. I don’t always have to score be effective, same as with training i see the game different being I’ve been a point guard my entire life. I’m teaching guys how to better their game in a more meticulous way.”

Steve Moore, who was a teammates of Kindred at Dominguez, would later go on to star at Arizona State and played some ball overseas is now being trained by Kindred and spoke on that keen eye he has when it comes to training.” He’s real technical with everything. He’s helped me with the technical stuff. If my elbows out on my jump shot, he’ll send me the picture. If i’m leaning over too hard while dribbling the ball he’ll sit my shoulders up right. He’ll send me film. The stuff he’s doing is next level. It’s good to see someone who was big in the city as far as playing live out his dreams and give back. He’s one of next best trainers out here,” said Moore after a recent Air West game that featured Brandon Jennings vs. J.R. Smith.

Speaking of Air West, Kindred has his hand in that too. Alongside street ball legend Chris “GhettoBird” Young, Kindred founded the Air West. Young, who was a world renowned player in his own right made a successful transition to the coaching ranks after playing. He coached Russell Westbrook and Dorell Wright in high school, and would later team with Kindred to start Air West.

Air West started was just an idea the two had to bring basketball back to Los Angeles and then one thing lead to another, and got Nike involved and swish! Like a Pooh Richardson jumper, and thus you now have Air West. Air West according to Kindred “Air West is an organized structured open run to speak. You have referees , uniforms, and it’s invite only. It’s like that one secret thing that you can get into. You have to be the elite of the elite athletes to get invited. We’re giving NBA players and professional players a chance to play other professionals when they come home. Its not too many open runs people want to be at. If you do have open runs it’s usually with friends and that can get a little tricky.”

In the 90’s UCLA was known to have these secret runs that according to folklore would include the likes of Magic Johnson and Reggie Miller. If you’re thinking Air West is just another UCLA than think again, “Truthfully we’re different. Here we give guys the chance to prove they can play. It’s invite only but you may not get the invite next week. The good thing about us is we get surprises over here. You never know who may show up at Air West.” Indeed, just this summer alone Jennings, Smith, Kenneth Faired, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, and Kevin Durant have stopped through.

With all the projects Kindred has his hands on you probably don’t feel as bad for him as you did three paragraphs ago. Kindred is a fighter personified. Humble, gracious, and always willing to give back to the community. For instance over the last two seasons in between training 75% of the Drew.

“I have about 2-3 players on every team,” said Kindred.

Players like 2013 Drew League Co-MVP Jonathan Gibson, the aforementioned Camper, and Kevin Lewis just to name a few. He’s also, the head coach of both L.A. Loop and the number 1 ranked N.W.A. Kindred still finds time to teach the skills clinic the Drew puts on for kids 5-14 every weekend. Talk about leaving no stone unturned. Speaking with Deputy Commissioner Chaniel Smiley, she shared her thoughts on Kindred ” This is Keion’s second year in a row as the lead trainer for our Jr. Drew kids clinic. We appreciate what he does for us because I’m sure he could be spending his time doing anything else but he dedicates his time working with the kids. We get many parents who email, or call us with positive feedback thanking our team for hosting a great clinic and expressing how much fun their child had. Keion has a heart of gold and understands the importance of giving back.” said Smiley.

Kindred is much more than a skills coach. I joked with him that he indeed should’ve been a life coach. He could’ve stopped, grown angry or bitter at that fact that his peers are in the prime of their NBA careers. Yet he did the complete opposite. He has found more success than he could have ever imagined. He gives time, effort, love, and a genuine desire for players to get better. Kindred is a testament to maximizing “plan b”. What we do when we think we should be doing something else. Sports aside you can learn a lot from Kindred. My hope is you just did.

“We’re living in a world that come with Plan B, because Plan A never provides a guarantee” – K.Dot

Otha Nevels is a recent Howard University graduate, with a degree in Broadcast journalism. He is currently a freelance writer with aspirations to be an esteemed Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. This is his first summer with the Drew. Previously Otha interned with the Washington Redskins, WHUR Radio, BET network, USA Basketball Nike Global challenge, ESPN National High School Invitational and the Howard University Sports Network.