In the illustrious words of Tupac, “The rose that grew from the concrete,” reigns true for basketball trainer and coach Keion Kindred, who has permeated every level of the Los Angeles basketball scene. From the humble beginnings of growing up in South Central Los Angeles, basketball has always played an integral part in Kindred’s life.
“That basketball can open up so many doors,” Kindred said as he pointed to the NBA ball that bounced across the court of Southwest College gym during the Drew League playoffs. “I’ve done more as a trainer than I probably ever did as a player in a short amount of time. Now I’m coaching, now I’m traveling overseas.”
When he realized that the summation of his sustained injuries over his playing career would conclude his time on-the-court, he was forced to pivot his passion and talents as a player to a new direction that would allow him to still remain attached to the game.
“Training was just the first platform that I explored and it ended up turning into a success,” stated Kindred, who founded Consistency Leads to Currency training in 2011. He described the brand as more of a mission statement for life, “I think that’s something you can use in everyday life. Whatever the currency may be for you. It could be money, a goal, a house, whatever you want, but if you’re not consistently working hard there won’t be results to it.”
Kindred raised the Drew League championship trophy high above his head after his team, Redemption, triumphed in a 99-92 victory over Nationwide Souljas on Sunday (Aug. 12) at Los Angeles Southwest College.
“He’s been a part of the Drew a long time and for him to get this championship is really big time,” commented Chuck Garcia, one of Kindred’s longtime players.
Nationwide was coached by Kindred’s mentor Roland Jones who Kindred used to coach with on the same Drew League team a few seasons earlier. In an interesting turn of events, both Kindred and Jones ended up facing off in the championship after upsetting clear favorites throughout playoff contention.
In the quarterfinals, Redemption defeated defending champion Birdie’s Revenge who had three-time MVP in their arsenal, Frank “Nitty” Sessions. Redemption was led by a 22 point effort by former Boston Celtics point guard Jonathan Gibson in dramatic fashion.
“I brought Jonathan to the Drew and he’s been nothing short of exceptional,” gushed Kindred. “I love guys like Antonio Biglow, Chuck Garcia.”
Just one day before the championship game the opposition featured former NBA champion Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who put on a monstrous 34 point performance for Nationwide in the Drew League semifinals to upset Nick Young’s team M.H.P. that featured DeMar DeRozan. The Drew League announced Davis would not play in the championship game and Redemption took full advantage.
“He knows each and all of our games, so he lets us clean ourselves up and it makes everybody’s job easy,” Garcia said of Kindred’s coaching style. Garcia led the team with 24 points and 12 rebounds earning a double-double in the final game.
Many of the players on Kindred’s roster including Garcia, and that fill most of the Drew League’s rosters are ones that Kindred trains during the offseason. In his eighth summer coaching at the Drew, Kindred walked away with his first title.
With this latest conquest, Kindred has cornered the Los Angeles basketball scene from all angles from co-curating Air West, the most competitive professional basketball open runs in the city, to being named the lead trainer for the Jr. Drew League and international ambassador for the Drew League.
“I’m able to show guys life bigger than Watts, bigger than Los Angeles,” Kindred said of working with the Drew League overseas in foreign countries, such as China. “We’ll take guys on tours that have never left LA. They get a chance to play in front of scouts, agents, teams to help prolong their career. In order to be in that position, I’m very thankful that the Drew gave it to me.”
His relationship with the 45-year-old premiere summer pro-am league spans even further with the development of the Jr. Drew League, a summer program designed to ingrain younger kids with the basketball skills, work ethic and leadership needed to advance their early basketball careers.
“The greatest experience I’ve ever had was to get up seven in the morning and be around kids that want to learn the game of basketball and I’m able to teach them,” recalled Kindred. This summer the Jr. Drew League hosted a camp for youth with learning disabilities. Kindred described it as one of the most rewarding interactions, “knowing that they have learning disabilities and you’re impacting them in a positive way.”
All of Kindred’s endeavors share a common thread, positively affecting underserved communities through the game of basketball. The Dominguez High School, in Compton, product has geared his training program to players who just want to improve without having to pay the exorbitant prices that professional basketball training is going for these days.
“Some of the guys can’t afford training, but it’s like I’m here so there’s no excuse for you to put your best foot forward,” remarked Kindred. “Just this summer alone, I convinced Frank Sessions into training with me this summer, so I could improve his game. We’re all bearing witness to what a three-month Frank Sessions looks like and I’m beyond proud of that kid.”
Kindred’s impact is felt immensely by the players with whom he comes into contact.
“He’s great,” said Gibson. “He keeps you focused working and he’s been like a big brother, a mentor.”
“He’s a big part of my life off the court,” added Garcia. “I always come to him for everything. I don’t look at him as a coach he’s like my best friend, my brother.”
Though Kindred’s basketball career as a player was stifled shortly after attending Long Beach State and finishing school in Missouri, he has redirected his upward trajectory in the basketball world. His life now directly impacts an entire generation of basketball players.