In the 25-plus years that J.D. Green has been a part of the Southern California basketball scene, he's seen the dramatic changes that have taken place at the high school level.
Alongside future NBA players Chris Mills and Sean Higgins, Green won a City Section title at Fairfax in 1987. He later returned as an assistant from 2001-2007 and oversaw the Lions winning two state titles (2004, 2007) along with their second upper division City title in 2007.
Now his calling has taken him to Westside Basketball Academy, where he is not just trying to work with future athletes but revamp a process that has emphasized players being seen instead of being trained and cultivated.
"We're just trying to change the face of grassroots basketball and turn it back into being about development, commitment and hard work instead of just traveling to games," Green said.
It's lessons that he's learned not just Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani, but other coaches that made a profound impact on him at Robertson and Queen Anne Parks.
One of those was his middle school coach Mike Morris, who emphasized discipline, commitment and creating a safe environment for his players. It's that attitude that Green says is lacking among the multitude of coaches and programs today.
When he played in the mid-to-late 1980's, there was one premier tournament to head to: the Slam-N-Jam Basketball Tournaments founded by Issy Washington. It was where he, Mills, Higgins, childhood friend Cedric Ceballos and others would flock to improve their game and test out their skills.
"If you were trying to be seen by scouts or develop as a player, that was the place to go play," he said.
The process used to be attending a few big-time camps, refine your game at local parks under a coach you've known for years and bring that element to your school team. As travel ball grew into a bigger industry, that process sped up as players were picked up from local parks or pay to join a national travel team well before they reached high school.
"It was a much slower process then and that's what we're trying to develop now with the youth."
Instead of having their kids go to various camps every weekend, the Academy favors attending only the top camps and focusing more on skill development. It's a response to seeing kids become overworked by shuttling to a different tournament every week.
He's optimistic that the process will begin making inroads in the high school over the coming years, especially as more athletes who went through it begin raising children,
"I'm starting to see more and more guys from my generation get into the grassroots level and that's what one of the things that will help change the face of it."
He's already seeing some of the rewards of it now as several of his players – Donte McFrazier, Solomon Hill and Darius Middleton – have played a role in helping Fairfax reaching the City semifinals on Saturday.
That's a legacy that he's hoping to continue at Westside Basketball Academy, the latest branch of his journey to help kids reach their full potential as not just athletes, but people.