Timmance McKinney grew up in the Bromley Health apartments in Jamaica Plain. He readily admits he got involved with the wrong people in the ultra competitive youth basketball scene. Now at the age of 23, he's back after graduating college, coaching basketball locally, and started his own mentoring program to help student athletes avoid his own pitfalls.
McKinney is currently the head coach of the St. Joseph's Preparatory School's junior varsity boys basketball team, and the assistant coach to the varsity squad. McKinney answered questions from Jamaica Plain News about his youth basketball experience, his path to graduating college and how he's helping today's youth.
Q: Where did you go to high school?
McKinney: I went to a few different schools around the area, but I really wish I would have stayed at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut.
Q: When did you start your the McKinney Mentoring Program and why did you want to create a mentoring program?
McKinney: I started my mentoring program during my winter break from school in 2016. At that point, I was in junior college and didn’t feel like I was going to be able to have a rebirth of my basketball career because of academic mistakes like trusting the wrong people. I had this idea that I wanted to help prevent kids from making the same mistakes I had made. I wanted to really stress to kids how important school is and how it goes hand and hand with your school career.
Q: You said you got involved with the wrong people? What did that entail?
McKinney: I chose the wrong guy to play with when it came down to AAU, and it was probably the worst decision I made in my life. I did it because I thought it would save one of my good friends who was already affiliated with him, and this decision unfortunately backfired on me.
Q: And you ended up graduating college through three different colleges? What three schools? Did you play basketball in college?
McKinney: I started at Howard Community College in Texas. I had torn my labrum there and had to have surgery and ended up transferring to Lake Region State Junior College in North Dakota. I then transferred to Colorado Northwestern College. I played at the latter two, but not the first because of my injury. It was definitely the toughest time of my life coming from city life in Jamaica Plain and then having to try and work through school and basketball in these small cities in the middle of nowhere. A positive that came out of those experiences was that I was able to earn two associates degrees from them -- an Associate of Arts from Lake Region State College and an Associate of Liberal Arts from Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Q: What do you tell kids to encourage them to be good student athletes? Do you just work with student athletes? Or students who are also not athletes?
McKinney: To encourage my players I tell them that in order to make it to where they want to go in sports, that they have to also be all about school. I let them know that no matter what sport you are pursuing a career in, school is always going to come hand in hand. I not only speak to athletes through my mentoring program, I also meet with at-risk students as well.
Q: What mistakes did you make that you warn students about?
McKinney: A big mistake I made that I would warn students about was not doing school work because I thought I was such a great basketball player it didn’t matter and that being a good athlete would be enough. I would also encourage them to not be too hard on themselves about certain situations, never quit, and keep pushing forward. At times I fell victim to these mistakes as well, and although they seem like little things, they can have a big impact on your school career as well as athletic career. Another thing I always stress to students is to be leaders not followers. If there are kids doing the wrong thing, don’t be that next one to join in, take your own path.
Q: Is your mentoring program a nonprofit organization? What schools does the program work with now? And others it's worked with in the past?
McKinney: It is a nonprofit organization, and I work mostly with middle schools in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. I've worked with a few different schools, specifically the Timilty, Orchard Gardens, BTU and the Match Charter School. I also have worked closely with Helen Russell's nonprofit program, Apprentice Learning, which is based in Jamaica Plain.
Q: At St. Joseph's you're an assistant coach for the varsity team and the head coach for the junior varsity team. How is your coaching style different from the people you warn students about?
McKinney: My coaching style is very different because I want the best for my players. It’s not about me. I feel like a lot of guys start to make it about themselves, and how they will benefit off of a kid. I am big on motivating kids. I never try to yell at a kid or kill their confidence, it’s not my style to break a kid down, I always try and build them up. After six hours of school a day, the last thing a teenager wants, is to have someone yelling at them while they are doing something they love. I make sure to tell guys we are going to work hard, but also have fun. I want my players to want to come to practice and learn things and work hard, but I don’t ever want my players to dread coming to practice.
Q: Anything else you'd like people to know?
McKinney: One last thing I want people to know is that the rumors are true -- there is a good chance I am starting up my own AAU Program for grades 6, 7, and 8. I told all my coaches that we are in this to help kids not make the same mistakes we did. I am also working on my own book called "So Much More Than Basketball."