CLEARWATER, Fla. — Willie Jones is slam-dunking for a second chance.
The former basketball prodigy at Seffner Christian is enrolled at the 3rd Side Basketball Academy, a post-grad program run by elite local coaches Pete Alexandrou and Jason Franzen.
"I came here to get better and go to the next level," says Willie.
Whether because of skill or attitude or academics, the players coming to 3rd Side weren't recruited out of high school or had obstacles to college, missing a chance at a free ride to school.
3rd Side, which runs out of Clearwater Academy International, wants to be a dream factory, sharpening these players, athletically and mentally, for a chance to play at smaller colleges with scholarship money to offer.
So far, it's working.
"Over the past two years, we've been lucky enough to send 14 kids to colleges, which equals up to around $1.4 million in scholarship money," says Coach Pete.
There are post-grad programs like this all over the country, with some charging exorbitant sums for a shot of a big school. 3rd Side is a smaller program that works with families financially.
Along with basketball drills, they also implement cognitive training skills with Coach Tuck Taylor at Beast Athletics.
The object is not to get rich or make the NBA. Coaches Pete and Jason just want to get these players to good schools where they can play ball and earn and education.
"The feeling we get when a player who never thought he'd go to college signs a scholarship is so great," says Coach Pete. "Yes, we're happy that they're playing basketball, but we're way happier that they're getting an education."
For more on the 3rd Side Basketball Academy, click here.