Stephen Curry has a long history of turning doubters into believers. Once considered too small to succeed at basketball’s highest levels, today Curry is a two-time NBA MVP, three-time NBA champion and a household name across the world.
Despite his extraordinary success however, Curry hasn’t forgotten what it feels like to be underrated, which is why he teamed up with Rakuten last winter to launch a first-of-its-kind basketball camp designed to offer overlooked high school athletes an opportunity to learn skills and gain exposure in hopes of playing basketball at the next level.
New year, new format
After a successful season one, which saw stops across the U.S. as well as an international stop in Tokyo, Curry’s Underrated Tour Powered by Rakuten is back with a new format for 2020. Announced via an article in the Players’ Tribune, season 2 of the Tour will feature four regional stops in Chicago, Dallas, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, followed by a championship stop in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Led once again by Curry’s personal skills development and performance coach Brandon Payne, an emphasis has been placed on gender parity, with an equal number of male and female athletes at each stop.
Day one of each weekend camp will feature skills training and competition before the field of up to 150 is narrowed down to only 60 athletes on the Sunday. After day two, eight young men and eight young women from each stop will be hand-picked to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for The Underrated Championship where one group will be crowned “Americas Most Underrated Region.” Finally, one boy and one girl selected as MVPs of the championship, will receive invites to Curry’s prestigious SC30 Select Camp.
“ITS FOR THE KIDS OUT THERE WHO DON’T QUITE FIT THE MOLD, BUT WHO JUST NEED THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW WHAT THEY CAN DO.”Stephen Curry
Chicago brings their A-game
The season got off to a strong start on Saturday, February 22 in Chicago, with two days of elite training and pro-level learning experiences.
The intensity of players on day one had Payne and his team of local coaches impressed. “Everything we had here with both events, in terms of the boys and girls, far exceeded any expectations I had. It was great to see players compete so hard for two really long sessions. The girls were just outstanding. It was amazing.”
Day two continued the trend with more skills training and intense gameplay, with each competitor giving their all for the chance to make it to the San Francisco Bay Area stop.
After two days of hard work in the gym, Stephen Curry himself took to Instagram to announce the 16 athletes that would be moving on to The Underrated Championship, resulting a torrent of excited social media responses from the young competitors.
Nate Robinson, Cappie Pondexter, AJ Rompaz offer lessons on hoops, business and life
Season two of Curry’s Underrated Tour will offer not just basketball lessons, but life and leadership lessons too. Each of the camps will feature panel discussions with sports and business leaders who will share their personal stories of proving doubters wrong.
In Chicago, participants were inspired by 13-year WNBA veteran and Olympic gold medalist Cappie Pondexter, former 11-year NBA veteran Nate Robinson, and former D1 athlete and pro trainer AJ Rompaz, in a conversation moderated by The Chicago Tribune’s Javonte Anderson.
“Have patience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We want things now, we want the next best thing and we want it now. But be patient, you have to wait and keep working.”Nate Robinson
Panelists shared their underrated stories, offered training tips, talked about the challenges of building a personal brand and offered words of wisdom to motivate the developing athletes.
“When you’re focused on something, when you love it, you’re gonna do it and you’re going to do to well,” shared Rompaz, who also urged participants to be grateful for the opportunity to attend a high level basketball camp like this — something he and his fellow panelists never got the chance to experience in their high school playing days.
Robinson, who at an undersized 5’9” won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest a record three-times, shared the keys to success for an underrated athlete, citing hard work, patience and a never-quit attitude.
“Have patience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We want things now, we want the next best thing and we want it now. But be patient, you have to wait and keep working.”
Robinson also highlighted the importance of life-long learning, “I’m a student of the game. You have to be a student of the game if you play ball. I watch NBA, I watch WNBA, I work out, I have a daughter and a son that play.”
Pondexter offered some advice specifically for the young women in attendance. “Just have fun! For the ladies, some of you are intimidated to play with the guys, but it betters your game. Take advantage of their prowess and their athletic ability.”
She also shared her own story of feeling underrated — ›which had many in the audience nodding their heads in recognition. “Growing up in a place where there were no female basketball influencers, I always felt underrated. I always had to play with the boys, and thought they were stronger, bigger, and faster than me. But growing up in Chicago, I had to change my mindset.”
Undersized. Underappreciated. Underrated. But also undeterred.
As Curry, once a 3-star recruit himself wrote in his season 2 announcement, Underrated Tour is “for the kids out there who don’t quite fit the mold, but who just need the right opportunity to show what they can do.” He and Payne created this showcase for high school players whose potential is far from being realized, because Curry is not the first 3-star prospect to turn doubters into believers, and he won’t be the last. When hard work, determination and opportunity collide, anything can happen.
Curry’s advice: “Stay underrated.”