Local basketball coaches share what they wished parents knew (part 2)

Local basketball coaches share what they wished parents knew (part 2)
February 10
11:16 2022

By KP Brabham

This informative article has been split into several parts to avoid losing the valuable insight provided by our local coaches. Part 1 ran in last week’s Chronicle.

Private school education has become popular among families with the growing discrepancies with public school education and sports-driven student-athletes who will also need a strong academic foundation to be successful on the collegiate level. Public magnet schools within the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) district are structured to be the next best in comparison to private schools, but the mandates for sports for the public schools aren’t affected. Last week coach Marlon Brim from Atkins Academic and Technology High School touched on the academic success of his student-athletes. According to US News for 2021, Atkins ranked number one in the WSFCS district, 39th in North Carolina, and 199th in magnet schools, housing roughly 1,100 students countywide.

As a former parent-teacher and student association (PTSA) president at Atkins, a part of my mission while in leadership was to bridge the gap between the student services department –  counselors who develop and track student paths to success – with our student body parents, especially the student-athlete parents. No one group was viewed as being more important than the other, but there were additional requirements for student-athletes to gain an athletic scholarship for collegiate level basketball that parents needed to be on top of. It wasn’t the responsibility of the PTSA to do those duties; however, we acknowledged the more we learned and shared with the families of our student body, the better the future outlook would become.

I’ll share more of those vital points over the next few weeks, but the emphasis here was to introduce the concept that high-ranked magnet schools could be the alternative to private schools if tuition does not fit your family budget. One coach who I knew could shed more light on the subject matter is coach Antonio Lowe, a two-year tenure men’s program director and head men’s national team basketball coach at Winston Salem Christian School located off Patterson Avenue in Winston-Salem. Coach Lowe also brings two years of experience from Moravian Prep in Hudson, N.C., head junior varsity (JV) coach and varsity assistant from McMichael High School in Madison, N.C., five years at the former Forest Trails Academy in Kernersville before its closure, head coach at Western Rockingham County Middle School in Madison, N.C., and about 10 years of amateur athletic union (AAU) coaching experience.


Coach Lowe believes the foundation of it all begins with rec ball and AAU to get players prepared for high school ball. “Some parents invest a lot into their child as far as training. Kids have to participate in the training and in every situation play hard. Then, it’ll be routine headed into a tryout.”  

Coach Lowe provided an example from tryouts, when a player may have a day when shots aren’t falling but “coaches look at body language, how much of a leader you’re being, and if you’re able to affect the game in other areas when you’re not scoring the ball.”

Coach Lowe believes that foundational transitions lead to the hard work and commitment that’s required to make a team and stay on the team. “It takes a lot and I’m speaking more so on the national side of the schedule. It’s very demanding. We can leave out of Winston-Salem on a Thursday morning traveling to an out-of-state tournament, miss class, a half-day of school, and won’t attend that Friday. They’ll be a little bit behind and if you don’t have a parent who’s constantly staying on their child and demanding the grades – I think it’s kind of a mutual thing for coaches and the parents to be on the same page. I’m one of those coaches who demands my players do their schoolwork, but it also has to come from the parents as well.”

Parents have been guilty more than once of overtalking a coach about the importance of academics, but by the end of the conversation, over half of that talk consisted of the sport and how the student-athlete fits into the program. Prior to the pandemic, online learning was in existence and for some schools, it was its main source for learning. Coach Lowe shared, “Before coming to Winston Salem Christian – I’m speaking on Forest Trails Academy and Moravian Prep – those were not real-school-type situations. Those were more so like kids taking their classes at an online accredited school, maybe in Florida or somewhere, but they played basketball for Forest Trails or Moravian. Versus now I’m at Winston Salem Christian and it’s actually face-to-face K-12. As a staff, we didn’t look at middle school because it was too early for parents to consider sending a child to an online school like a Moravian or Forest Trails Academy.

“Fast forward now to me being at Winston Salem Christian. I put a lot of time in with middle school because that’s the foundation of building a program. In my first year, our middle school team was pretty good [ coached by Jake Honeycutt, a former JV assistant coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill], and this year we had a couple of middle school kids transfer into Winston Salem Christian who are not on our middle school team right now. But when you look at the foundation of our middle school program, I think we got a really good core of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders who will all have the opportunity to move up and hopefully reach the national level.

“So yes, I put a lot of time in; I’m in the gym more now watching the middle schools and keeping an eye on what the middle school kids are doing, especially locally, because I think that’s foundational in building a big national program, having kids that’s going to come up see it, be in your system from the 6th grade, and getting the right coaching. Our JV team actually has 8th graders on it and they’ve had the opportunity to play against about five or six varsity level teams.”

When I asked Coach Lowe about keeping his middle school team together over the summer in an AAU capacity, he stated, “It’s always beneficial when you can keep your guys together and have them continue to grow and develop as a team and build the chemistry. If you get a 7th- or 8th-grade team that’s able to play together not only in the summer but leading into their season, I feel like it puts them at a great advantage and even a bigger advantage going into high school because it’ll be that same team.”  

The downside to AAU, Coach Lowe explained, “when coaching, you don’t spend a lot of time in practice, maybe once or twice a week, then the team would play on the weekends.” On the contrary, high school teams practice every day. Coach Lowe stated, “Your game plan is a little different, more prepared by watching game film and scouting your opponents, whereas coaching AAU is ‘on the fly.’”


On the AAU circuit, every player on the bench is not guaranteed to get into the game. In most middle schools, we see coaches trying to make sure each child on the bench gets into the game at some point. Coach Lowe added, “Everybody wants their child to play and as a coach, I come in every game wanting to put every kid in the game. Playing time is earned in practice. Me speaking from the national level, talking about some of my teams over the past, I’m talking about a roster of 12 kids and 10 of the 12 kids may be going Division I, so it’s very competitive. Practices are very competitive. All is earned in practice. You may have a 9th grader on your varsity or national team who’s not playing as much as the senior. My advice to that parent would be to tell the 9th grader to keep working and learn as much as he can from that senior because one day it’ll be his turn.

“Playing time is earned – I let parents come in sometimes to watch our practices so they’ll be able to see.” Coach Lowe also explained the tenacity of a player when the time comes to go into the game for one minute and 30 seconds and play their hardest, it gives coaches a reason to do it the next time. “That goes a long way, sticks out, with coaches,” he explained. Coach Lowe stated, “If I put a kid in at the end of the game for two minutes and he goes in playing the hardest he’s ever played, whether we’re winning or losing, that’ll get him four minutes the next game. You always have to look at the opportunity you’re given; whether it’s practice or in the game, take advantage of it.”

Coach Lowe explained his value of treating everyone the same regardless of which team the child makes. He stated, “At the end of the day, I don’t treat anyone any different. I’m not going to treat any parents or child or family any differently because they’re on JV. I will always be honest [with parents] about it and say maybe your son still has a little bit of a way to go. And of course, every parent is going to think their child is a little bit better than what the coach may see, but for a 9th- or 10th-grade kid who wants to make it to the national team, they get a chance to see guys on the national team at Winston-Salem Christian going high major.”


It’s tough to make the best parental decision, especially when we as the parent believe our kids are the best talent out there on the team. However, the realization is that not every high school team will get college looks. Out of roughly 4,600 DI scholarships available, there are three times as many student-athletes. Understanding the numbers, it makes the decision more challenging when kids want to change schools for athletic reasons. But to play college-level basketball, Coach Lowe explained, “It doesn’t mean the only way of doing so is through Division I or from a private school. But an advantage of being at Winston Salem Christian is it gives a glimpse of what to work for. I’ve seen where parents may have a Division I player who goes to a smaller public school that’s not getting recognition and they end up leaving the public school around about their 10th- or 11th-grade year and going to a private school that’s centered around the basketball side of things. We don’t have that problem at Winston Salem Christian because we offer the academics and we have that national program. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Parents transfer kids into private schools to get more looks from college coaches. I asked Coach Lowe how he’s handling the transfers and the pressing hot topic of reclassing. Coach Lowe responded with “I don’t have those conversations unless it’s brought to me. I’m not one of those coaches who push reclass. Every child is different and every reason to reclass your child’s situation is different.” If addressed with the topic, Coach Lowed explained he would ask the parent for the reasons why reclass is on the table. Coach Lowe has gotten academic reasons as well as basketball reasons in the past. He doesn’t believe reclassing to be bad, he feels it’s more popular in North Carolina than other states and the transfer from public to private most often is to reclass, but it can be an advantage for some. Coach Lowe detailed an instance while at Moravian Prep when player Josh Hall transferred in from Oak Hill Academy, a private school located in the Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. “Hall was on Oak Hill’s red team, which is their B team; he was 6’9” and really, really skinny. When Hall transferred to Moravian, he had two Division I offers, one from High Point University in High Point, N.C., and one from Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. I convinced his dad to let me reclass him and Hall went from those two offers to a 5-star in one year from a reclass because he was able to take that extra year to put on weight and get more serious about the game. He’d committed to NC State University in Raleigh, N.C., but decided to skip college and ended up being picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent. The reclass year benefited Hall.”


“I tell parents to trust the process going from 8th to 9th grade. He may have had success as a 7th or 8th grader in middle school, but you’re going up to a whole other level, 9th grade, and depending upon whether your child plays JV or varsity, they’re going to struggle. There’s nothing wrong with struggle. I think a lot of times parents try to protect their kids from struggling. If he averaged about 15 points as an 8th grader and now he goes to the 9th grade and he’s only averaging maybe seven or eight [points], that to me is normal, that’s fine. He’s playing against older guys, sometimes they may have 10th graders on the JV team. That’s a big gap right there, especially coming from middle school. So, there’s nothing wrong with a kid struggling early to figure it out. It’s still a process. I like to tell parents to sit back, trust the process, and let them play and have fun.”

As program director, Coach Lowe explained he has online access to view and monitor both middle and high school students’ academic progress. “If grades are not at least a grade C or above, the student-athlete has to attend mandatory study hall daily Monday through Thursday from 3:30-5:00 p.m. until the course grade rises. Even if the child is not in academic trouble but needs a quiet place to work or gain extra help, Coach Lowe explained that opportunity is there as well.  


No one wants to see a kid struggling, whether they are a basketball player or not, is the sentiments of Coach Lowe and his staff. “Academics is very important and will carry you further in life than where basketball will carry you,” stated Coach Lowe. He continued with, “It’s important for middle and high school kids to do their schoolwork and have good grades. I believe it makes us as a school and as a basketball program, look good when all of our kids are qualifying and everybody has good grades.

“Having good grades makes it easier to sell you as a basketball player, it shows a lot to a coach that they can trust you because your grades are good. So, when I’m reaching out and talking to these college coaches, the first question they usually ask is, ‘How is his grades?’ For me to be able to respond by saying ‘Oh no, coach, that’s not an issue, he has a 3.7, 3.8 GPA and has never been on academic probation’ is great.”  

Coach Lowe summed up that the strong academic presence speaks about the player’s character and that if any player, middle school and up to the national team, is not successful, at the end of the quarter is placed on probation and suspended from the team, practice, and games until grades are at Winston Salem Christian’s standards.

Coach Lowe expressed that he stands 100 percent behind the school if a kid must sit out because of academics. “It doesn’t matter if the player is a 5-star going to a high major school, if his grades begin to fail, the administration will not allow the player to participate,” Coach Lowe emphasized. “Basketball is a privilege at any level, so academics must come first.”

Coach Lowe wanted to voice that a parent can never be too involved in their kid’s schoolwork, whether it’s for basketball reasons or not. “If a parent sees the kid struggling, they may not catch on as fast as other kids; don’t overlook it.” He encourages parents to get kids the academic help they need to succeed because “the ball will stop bouncing one day,” stated Coach Lowe. 

He added, “I’m always wanting to put kids in the best position to be successful. I have the best at heart for the student.”

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