There aren’t many people I still keep in touch with that I have known since I was in the 4th grade, but Kamal is one of them. I met Kamal playing AAU for ‘Ferrari’ in Chicago and the rest is history. We met a few times on the court in high school. We won’t go into too much detail there seeing that I’m 0-2 against Seton Academy. In 2019 he was in my wedding and we talk weekly if not daily at times. I mention these things because we have a pretty good friendship that continues to grow. There are times when one of us will text the other out of the blue a random basketball player’s name. That means one thing. Name the college he went to. Not just any players though. Tough ones. It could be a Tuesday evening and I’ll get a text from him: “Greg Buckner”. My job is to come back with “Clemson” as fast as possible. There was a time when we would ask for someone’s college but instead of replying with the name of the school, we would reply with another player who went to the school. Kamal lives basketball which you will easily find out by seeing his tweets, but at the same time, he is now giving back to the game in a few different ways. He recently was on the Key And Mang Podcast talking about the recent Ja Morant news. His Instagram is geared towards sports and all things physical therapy related. He’s one of the first people that came to mind when I thought about doing spotlights so here is a little more about him, his business, and his story!
-What inspired you to pursue a career in physical therapy?
“It’s actually a crazy long story. To make it short my cousin introduced me to the field when I was 19 years old trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. He mentioned PT and said I think you’d be a great PT, I work in a Doctor’s office with PT and I can see you being great at this. I thought it was just a family member just talking but fast forward from that point and every major event in my life from my car accident, to my concussion, to my knee injury in college led me to physical therapy. My cousin unfortunately passed away 3 years ago and I feel like it’s my duty and bond with him that I become what he saw in me before I saw it in myself. He knew my potential and now when things get tough I remember why I chose this path and it’s my guidance and means of motivation.”
-What challenges have you come across so far as you study this field?
“Man I’m fresh in the field, halfway through my first of 3 years, and when they say PT school is no joke they ain’t lyin! It’s said that PT school is like drinking out of a fire hydrant and man is that so true. The overflow of information and the short amount of time you get to learn the information is ridiculous. It has tested my patience, toughness, and resiliency just like how basketball used to do for me. Also as a young African American man in a field of less than 4% African American with less than 2% being African American men, it is a challenge when you don’t really see many that look like you. Diversifying the profession and building awareness of physical therapy and its benefits is one of the goals and challenges which I hope to tackle. As my schooling continues and I get into the field I’m sure the challenges will continue so I’m excited to see what is in store for me.”
As a former athlete, you’ve now started a business to give back to high school athletes to help them be better. What advice can you give to others who are trying to start a business and might not know where to start?
“It’s a great question and I laughed when reading it because when you want to do something sometimes you just have to “jump in the water.” I never thought I would start a business during the most challenging academic point in my life. I realize I am doing something extremely unconventional, but I’ve never done what everyone else does. I’ve always gone against the grain. Some may say “Why would you start a business while you’re going through one of the most challenging times in your life?” But I look at it in a different way. This helps me be more disciplined and value my time more than ever before because I know I have things to get done with so little time. There’s never a perfect time to start a business. Start off getting your message out there through digital platforms and prove that you’re passionate about what you’re doing and others will follow. If you want to start a business the only way you get good at it is by actually starting, taking your lumps along the way, seeking advice/coaching, and realizing that things will be tough but in the end, it will be worth it.”
What’s the biggest mistake you see high school athletes make?
Mentorship is a part of your business and how you help high school athletes. Who were some of your mentors and how did they help you get here today?
“I’ll be honest I have a great family that provided everything I needed. Outside of my family, I grew up around a lot of great men that showed me what hard work and being a great human looks like. I could name 100 people but I would say the main ones are my God dad Percy Gibson, my cousins Dayo and Dolapo, the man who taught me how to play basketball Pat Gordon, and my high school basketball coaches Coach Thomas and Coach Weems. All of these are strong and educated black men that showed what it looks like to be educated, great fathers, stand-up guys, and hard working. There are plenty of others that have been influential but for the sake of time those are some of the main ones.”
How do you help athletes realize that playing on top-tier AAU teams or absolutely needing to go D1 isn’t always the best route for them?
It’s playoff time and I know you recently did a NBA playoff recap. Who do you have in the NBA finals and ultimately winning it all?
“This season is all over the place and I’ll be honest I think it’s going to be Denver and Miami with Denver winning it all but that wasn’t my initial pick. It’s been a lot of unexpected things going on during these playoffs, but I absolutely love it. For basketball purest and die-hard fans that love to watch the epitome of good basketball, we all will enjoy it no matter who is in the finals. So I’m looking forward to whoever makes it and may the best TEAM win.”
We’ve been talking about PT & sports advice. A lot of times sports lessons and advice can go hand in hand with everyday life. What’s a piece of life advice you received that you live by?
“Honestly basketball has been such a huge part of my life that almost all of the lessons I’ve learned from basketball can be related to my everyday life. Out of all the things that I’ve learned in sports I would say the one piece of life advice I live by is “You don’t rise to your level of expectations, you fall to the level of your training.” When I was given this piece of advice I had no idea what it meant but I learned that it simply is saying in life you don’t get what you expect, nothing is given to you nor do you “deserve” anything in life. But you do fall to the level of your training means what you work for is what you will get. So in the end, when sh** hits the fan everything that you receive will be from what you have worked hard to receive.”
Tell us about some of your on-court accomplishments.
“Haha humbly, I’m a retired basketball player now but I was one of the best to do it (shout-out Jayson Tatum). I don’t always speak on my past accomplishments but I was a pretty decent athlete some years back. I was an all-region, all-conference, all-state, and all-American nominated basketball player in high school as well as one of the best ping pong players (I know that’s random) in the state of Illinois. What brings me the most pride and joy in terms of sports is that every one of my opponents that I’ve ever played against can vouch that I played hard, smart, and was a great player. All of the years I played sports I can look back and honestly say I don’t have a single regret and that brings me an immense amount of joy. Basketball is the reason I’ve been able to travel to many places, go to school for free while most of my friends had to pay for college and meet lifelong friends. Now I am back in school and I’ll be a Doctor in 2.5 years all because of advice that a cousin gave me following an injury from the very same sport of basketball. Excited for my future and I appreciate you allowing me to share my story on your platform. Thank you for showing me what a great father looks like and for all of the support and encouragement you have given me over the years. Thank you Brotha, all love.
“If you’re reading this and you know any high school basketball players, teams, coaches or anyone involved in high school basketball send them my way. I created a top-notch program to help anyone that wants to play at the college level. Follow all my socials.”
This the best interview I’ve read in a long time. Amazing questions with amazing answers! Great job.
Amazing story and good perspective on life! 👏🏽👏🏽