Sunday Conversation: Brett Melton

Sunday Conversation: Brett Melton

He is one of four area athletes to win Player of the Year honors in boys’ basketball in consecutive seasons.

He earned a full scholarship to Illinois after graduating from Mahomet-Seymour in 2000.

These days, Brett Melton calls San Diego home, and he’s making his living through basketball.

Next month, he’ll return to his hometown to conduct a series of three shooting clinics for boys and girls from grades 3 through high school.

Executive Sports Editor Fred Kroner caught up with the 33-year-old Melton this week but only challenged him to a game of 1-on-1 in a question-and-answer format.

After graduating from college (in 2005) and playing professionally in Mexico and the ABA, was your next job in sports?
I was in Corporate America the past seven years in educational sales, most recently with DeVry University as director of admissions. I started helping club (basketball) teams in the area, and it brought a passion and energy back to helping kids. I thought I could make a profession out of it. I tried to figure a good time to depart DeVry without it being a financial burden. In March (2014), I started doing basketball full-time (opening a basketball shooting academy).

How did the idea of shooting camps and clinics get started?
I was going through articles where I talked about what I was doing in third and fourth grade. My dad (Mike) made me focus on the fundamentals. A lot of kids develop bad habits, but they’re too young to know better. I missed a lot of shots. There were kids in my grade always making more shots than me. Dad said, “Shoot ’em the right way and good things will happen.”

Is your area of Southern California a hotbed for aspiring basketball players?
In San Diego, every weekend, there are games, but it’s all games, games, games. You don’t see anyone focusing on the fundamentals. Games won’t help you get better. That’s why I wanted to step in. Shooting is one of the only aspects of basketball where it doesn’t matter how tall or fast you are. If you can shoot, you’ll have a place to play. These crazy crossovers and spin-away jump shots are not the shots kids need to be learning. I’m basically trying to enhance what club teams are teaching. I’m not recruiting players. They keep playing with their current high school or club teams.

Was it a difficult decision to leave the business world to do this full-time?
I enjoyed it (working for DeVry University). I don’t have any children, but one day I will. I’d rather have my sons or daughters see me around sports than locked in an office 80 hours a week. My back and ankles were always hurting and it was a fact of sitting 8 to 10 hours a day.

If you knew then what you know now, would you still have chosen to go to the UI out of high school?
My dream was to play basketball at Illinois, and I accomplished my dream. If I knew what I know now, I would have been more open-minded. I fit in well with Lon Kruger or Bruce Weber’s systems, but I was stuck in the Bill Self Era and it affected people like myself. I needed more of a run-and-gun, fast-paced system.

Do you regret playing for Bill Self?
Of all my years playing basketball, Coach (Randy) Sallade and Coach (Bill) Self were the two best coaches I’ve had, by far. Coach Self had an amazing way to make every player feel like they were an important part of the team. As a freshman, he had me feeling like my role was as important as the starters. He did a great job teaching mental toughness.

When you transferred from the UI to the University of San Diego after playing 35 games in two years for the Illini, did you immediately fall in love with the area?
When I moved out here, I was a kid, 20 years old. I was homesick. There was nothing I liked about San Diego. Mom (Cindy) always told me to stick it out and said “one day you will call San Diego your home.” She was right.

So, you’re doing shooting clinics at your high school alma mater next month?
On Friday, July 25, I will work with young kids from third to fifth grade from 4 to 7 p.m. On Saturday, July 26, I’ll work with sixth- to eighth-graders from 9 a.m. to noon. On Sunday, July 27, I’ll work with high school kids from 1 to 4 p.m. I did not want to get into a situation where I was trying to teach 40 or 50 kids at the same time how to shoot a basketball. By scheduling one session a day, if it gets too big, I can split it up and do another session later or the next day.

Are proceeds from the camp fee ($39 per person) going to you?
My fiancee (Talia Hayward) and I have created a nonprofit organization for underprivileged children in Zambia (where she is from) and the United States. A portion (of the fee) will go back to the Mahomet-Seymour basketball programs. The rest will go to the nonprofit organization (ThankfulThinking.org).

Do you still have the shooting touch from three-point range?
I can go out and hit eight or nine out of 10 because I have that exuberant amount of confidence in my shot.

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