Tristan Spurlock won't deny it. He was a star on the basketball court, but he wasn't getting the job done in the classroom.
He had immense basketball talent, and college coaches were falling over themselves to offer him a scholarship. He was a sophomore at Montrose Christian, one of the best high school basketball programs in the country.
But Spurlock's academics were slipping. And he needed a reminder that if he kept it up, he was going to suffocate his college basketball chances one bad grade at a time.
He found that kick in the pants in the First Team program, which he was accepted into two years earlier. Armed with information on the scholastic standards of playing NCAA basketball, the leaders of First Team sternly reminded Spurlock that his academics weren't just a priority--they were a necessity.
Spurlock got the message, and turned his grades around immediately. He accepted a scholarship to the University of Virginia (he latered transferred to Central Florida), and during his final year at the First Team's annual conference he spoke to other participants about his wake-up call so they would not head down the same path.
First Team staff Duke Pryor remembers sitting in the session listening to Spurlock speak with passion and the hope of helping other First Team members.
"It was very inspirational to see him wanting to help others," Pryor said. "It made me want to go back to school and get better grades. He had such a powerful message."
Just before heading off to a basketball practice, Spurlock shared his experiences with basketball and the First Team program with iHoops.com.
When did you get started playing basketball?
I started playing basketball at the age of 5. I was little when I started playing recreationally, playing 5-on-5 with friends. We had a Boys and Girls Club real close to home and that's where I started. It was the youngest you could start with the leagues and stuff.
Did you play any other sports?
I played football. My dad (Rodney) was an NFL agent. I played a little quarterback but I didn't pass too much. I kept it and ran.
When did you start to realize that you could possibly play college basketball?
For me, I've always been a basketball fan. It probably happened in eighth grade or ninth grade when I started looking into what high school I wanted to go to. I had a lot of big-time high schools in my area. Oak Hill is not too far. Montrose Christian is close. When you're looking at those types of high schools, you're definitely looking to play in college and hopefully further on after that.
You're 6-foot-8 now. Did you have a late growth spurt or did you always have height?
I was always tall. By eighth grade I was 6-3, 6-4. I was always the tallest one in my class.
Where did you first hear about First Team?
I first heard about First Team when I was in seventh grade. My gym teacher heard about the program and signed us up in seventh grade. We thought we were going after seventh grade but actually we were going after eighth grade entering into our ninth grade year. We actually had an extra year to hear about it.