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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bigger Than Hoops, L.A. Based Youth-Basketball Program Honors Over 40 Middle School Student-Athletes

By Nickey Woods, M.Ed.

Earl Watson Elite Middle School Basketball Team

Earl Watson Elite Middle School Basketball Team

Los Angeles, CA — On Saturday, March 28, 2015, Ryan Silver, president of Earl Watson Elite, is doing something that is not common among youth travel basketball programs. He will be honoring over 40 Earl Watson Elite middle school basketball players that have excelled as student-athletes. What makes this so unique is that he is honoring their success not on the basketball court, but in the classroom!

While monitoring student-athletes’ academic performance is not a requirement for travel basketball programs, Earl Watson Elite parents are accustomed to being asked for their son’s report cards. Silver hopes to promote an awareness of the importance of doing well in the classroom as a means to greater future opportunities for the student-athletes in his program. Targeting academic success in middle school, believes Silver, is the best way to prepare student-athletes for academic success in high school, when grades can determine the college trajectory as early as the ninth grade.

“It is very important for student-athletes at a young age to understand the importance of academics. The 40-year plan and life when the ball stops bouncing is something very important in our program,” says Silver.

To help accomplish his goal of honoring the academic achievements of Earl Watson Elite student-athletes, Silver created an academic team consisting of parents and staff with educational backgrounds in order to determine awards criteria and evaluate student transcripts.

The Earl Watson Elite parents have responded to his call for an emphasis on academic excellence as well, with numerous parents submitting report cards for review for Earl Watson Elite’s inaugural middle school academic awards ceremony. On Saturday evening, 42 Earl Watson Elite middle school basketball players will be honored for their hard work in the classroom. Student-athletes will receive one of four honors: Honorable Mention (3.0 to 3.49), Honor Roll (3.50 to 3.79), High Honors (3.80 to 3.99), and Highest Honors (4.00 and above). Currently, 14 middle school student-athletes have a GPA of 3.80 or better.

Although honoring over 40 athletes is remarkable, Silver hopes to increase the number of student-athletes earning a spot on the Earl Watson Elite Academic Honor Roll in the future. “Academics are the number one focus at Earl Watson Elite. We were blessed to send two kids to Harvard (Tommy McCarthy and Balsa Dragovic), one kid to Cornell (Stone Gettings), and one kid to Lehigh (Kyle Leufroy). We are very proud of these young men and know they will be wildly successful in life.”

Earl Watson Elite strives to be an organization that is about more than basketball. This program is dedicated to building men of character through basketball and helping kids change their lives on and off the court. On May 3rd, 2015, the Earl Watson Elite Basketball Organization will be hosting a fundraising gala to raise funds for programs and initiatives that support its student-athletes. In the past two years, 23 student-athletes who have played for the Earl Watson Elite program have gone on to play for the following colleges and universities: Harvard, Cornell, Lehigh, St. John’s, Arizona State, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly Pomona, Florida State, Air Force, UC Davis, and Oregon State. Earl Watson Elite’s High Academic and Community Outreach Programs set this organization apart from other AAU programs and instills in its student-athletes the importance of academic excellence and giving back to the community.

This fundraising gala will honor former UCLA and NBA player (and current San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach) Earl Watson. Mr. Watson will be receiving the inaugural “Attitude of Gratitude” Award for his work with youth basketball players and providing a vehicle for young men to achieve their own academic and athletic goals. This fundraising event is open to the public, for more information please visit the website at

For more information about their basketball programs, please contact Thea Watkins, Assistant Director of Team Operations, at twatkins@westcoastelitebasketball.com.

Thea Watkins