Willowbrook – Out with the old. In with the new. The moniker that hangs from each side of the King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science like it always has, remains the same. The sponsorship of one of the most lit pro-am summer basketball leagues in the country now has a different look and feel to it.
That’s the sign of the times these days for the Drew League. It would not be a stretch to come to that conclusion when you consider the late, great Kobe Bryant shut down the house with an unforgettable performance that only the Black Mamba could put on.
The list goes on and on with NBA stars and superstars making their way down to the campus of King/Drew set in the Watts/Compton area of town for an opportunity to earn some street credibility and hone their own game at the same time.
Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Compton High School alum DeMar DeRozan are just some of the marquee names to show up for some summer hoops. For much of that time, Nike was the Drew League’s biggest sponsor. That is no longer the case. The longtime partnership between the Drew League and Nike has come to an end.
adidas, Nike’s chief rival, is now backing the famous summer basketball league. ReeCee Hollans, the head of Grassroots Basketball at adidas, believes the Drew League is in good hands with the famous sneaker company.
“What we’re about is authenticating ourselves in the basketball space in a real way,” Hollans said in a one-on-one interview on July 3.
To Hollans, grassroots doesn’t mean sitting in a glass ivory tower and not connecting herself or the adidas brand with clients like the Drew League and its wide range of customers.
“I’m from Oakland, California. I want to know you from a human level,” Hollans remarked. “Basketball was a vehicle that changed my life and I want to be able to get in front of kids who look like me, get in front of families, get in front of people who look like me, who come from the same place that I come from and informed them what I do, give them that love and give them that human. Hopefully, they’ll want to be on our side. I’m out. I’m on foot. I want to meet. I want to talk. I want to know who you are. That’s what it is about.”
Hollans goes on to say in the interview that it is the human element that fuels her to connect with people.
“I think that a lot of the time we don’t connect on human levels and me, I’m really, really big on human connection as well as family,” Hollans said.
The Drew League is spearheaded by the Smiley family. Dino Smiley oversees the Drew League Foundation. His daughter, Chaniel Smiley, is the Drew League’s commissioner. The Smiley’s and the Drew League Foundation has been astute in ways of connecting and giving back to the Watts, South Los Angeles and Compton communities through their charitable works.
Plugging in the community with philanthropic efforts is something that Hollans said she is a big believer in. Supporting the Drew League Foundation is aligned with what she and adidas does, she said.
“We’re also tapping into the Drew League Foundation, helping out with King/Drew and any community service initiative that they have in the Compton community, and just giving brand support, being visible, being there,” said Hollans. “Whatever they need that we can provide, we’re willing to give it to them.”
Getting connected with the Drew League in a formal way has always been on her wish list, says Hollans.
“I went to USC, played there, lived in Los Angeles after college, so everybody knew about the Drew League,” Hollans said. So, when I was blessed and fortunate enough to get the job at adidas basketball, one of my bucket lists was [that] I would love to partner with the Drew League.”
“God made it so that I was able to connect with the amazing Smiley family,” Hollans added. “We sat down, we talked. We told them what we could offer, again, from an opportunity to elevate their platform, giving them the tools and resources that they need to grow on the court, and more importantly, in the community. It just made sense.”
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