Where I come from, hard work is the only way out.
And growing up, there was no better person that showed me the way than my Grandmother.
Coming home after work every night, she would get right to cooking and cleaning, making sure our family had everything we needed. From putting food on the table to making every birthday one to remember, she was just always there to help.
But I knew this couldn’t come easy.
So when I first started to get recruited by Rutgers and the message was this was a rebuilding program, and a lot of sweat would need to be put in, I didn’t shy away.
That’s just how I was raised.
A lot of guys I knew wanted to attend the programs that had national attention every year, but I was attracted to the idea that I could help build something at Rutgers.
From the very beginning, Coach Eddie Jordan helped me realize that I would have a chance to compete for playing time and continue to build on the progress that Myles Mack had made here.
But coming in that first year, it was anything but easy.
As a group, we showed potential but just couldn’t put it all together. It was a hard transition year, but it just left me hungrier to live in the gym and build on the chemistry with my teammates.
Heading into the second year, we all had bigger dreams to reach.
Not only personally did we want to get better, but as a group, we wanted to push that win total up to show our fans the result of our effort.
And although we didn’t get the results in league play that we were hoping for, we doubled our win total.
This was exactly the progress we had sweat for.
But with the end of the season, I now had a decision to make. Should I chase my dream in the NBA or continue to build with our team at Rutgers?
I loved what we were making but I also now had someone else to think of…..
The most important thing in my life, my newborn daughter.
Knowing I now had someone directly depending on me made the decision more difficult, but ultimately my family and I decided that staying put was best for my future.
I still had milestones I wanted to achieve and I wanted to see if we could get to some type of postseason.
But coming back, I wanted to make sure it was worth it. I needed to turn it up a notch.
And that’s how we got the Knight Shift going.
Of course, I was still working on my game during practices, but every off hour left my mind thinking about getting on the court. I couldn’t just sit around anymore now that I had others depending on me, so I tried to find a way to get some shots up.
After a few conversations with the coaching staff, I persuaded them to give me keys to the gym.
I finally had a way to work on my skillset during my breaks, especially after dark.
Honestly, I didn’t think much about it, but after I put up a few SnapChats of me leaving the gym after midnight, my teammates started asking questions.
And once my roommate, Eugene Omoruyi, found out, there wasn’t another night in the gym alone.
Before long, it was all of our teammates spending late nights working drills together and practicing our shooting.
I guess it wasn’t just me who couldn’t sleep…..
Now, as more and more people find out about our late night workouts, most think it was all a plan. Or that we were asked to put in this extra work.
But really, it just shows who makes up this team, guys who aren’t afraid to make their own path and put in the work to pave it.
So no matter how this year ends, I’m proud of what I have gotten to achieve at Rutgers. Yes, some things could have gone a little bit differently, but we all had the chance to make our own path and build something here.
What path will you follow?