Giving back through the game: Knoxville native develops young talent

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — On a hot summer evening at Harriet Tubman Park, you can find orange cones filling the third court. And the sound of the ball hitting the ground followed by a “swoosh” as the basketball sinks through the hoop, accompanied by shouts of encouragement as a “JMike” training session takes place.

Knoxville native Jamichael Blair’s first love is basketball. After a knee injury cut his career short, he found a way to stay around the game; working as a skills and development coach.

“To be close to the game and stay connected to the game, why not give back to the youth?” said Blair.

Blair’s love for basketball goes all the way back to when he was 8 years old. He continued to play through high school for Austin-East, then went on to play in college. Blair played at Sheridan College and then transferred to Lee University where the “injury bug” got him — cutting his career short.

But he did not want his relationship with basketball to end.

After working as an assistant coach for some time, he decided he enjoyed working one-on-one with young basketball players, honing in on the fundamentals of basketball.

“Some kids got it, but others need that little push,” says Blair, “They weren’t working on the game besides coming to practice—they needed someone to give them that confidence and motivate them.”

Blair is going on five years of helping develop local talent. Running shooting and dribbling drills to help perfect their technique while motivating them to keep working hard.

“That’s my passion to give back, to put whatever I got in me to them,” says Blair, “that I learned over my years and experience with the game.”

His style of coaching reflects his motto, “get better, or get worse.” He holds the kids he is working with accountable, making them re-start a drill if they lose control of the ball. He also will offer words of encouragement if they connect the ball to the hoop in a layup, or gracefully complete a jump shot.

“If they’re successful, I’m successful,” says Blair with a smile on his face.

He also teaches them skills that transcend the basketball court, as the game facilitates hard work ethic, passion, dedication and teamwork.

“These kids need some positive role models,” says Blair, “This is worth more than a million dollars, trillion dollars to me; giving back to these kids.”

With developing young talent, Blair is hoping to help to put Knoxville on the map when it comes to cities known for good basketball. He tells his friends and family that his goal is to “flip the state,” to make it known that there is “good basketball here in East Tennessee.”

Blair works independently and his coaching sessions “JMike Workouts” an be found through his facebook or Instagram.

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