Here’s the gospel truth about basketball in the North Side of Pittsburgh: the city is full of gifted players in large part to the selfless coaches who continue to invest their time and energy into helping them grow as players and people.
As this Wooter Apparel blog remains dedicated to highlight the standout teams, leagues, and players that have made a positive impact on the court, in the community, and across their respective social media platforms, it’s also extremely important to recognize the efforts of the coaches who are there day in and day out, putting work in like the players themselves.
Early mornings and late nights. Each training and development session. Every practice and game. Everyday, all day. Any time a student-athlete needs someone to turn to — it’s programs like the Urban Impact Foundation and the work Coach Higgins does with his guys at Urban Impact Foundation Hoops that should be applauded.
Recently, Coach Higgins took time to share his own story from the court to coaching, growing as a young coach, the chance to team-up with a brand like Wooter Apparel, and the tremendous work being done through basketball in Pittsburgh with Urban Impact Hoops…
One of the best parts about basketball is being able to share your experiences and philosophies from around the game and all you’ve learned as a player over the years. What did you learn the most about yourself from your time playing at Geneva College where you lettered in 2015 and ‘16?
College basketball, on any level, will expose who you are as a player and as a man and Geneva College basketball did just that. I saw how much harder others worked than me, I saw better attitudes, I saw better ball players, and ultimately, I saw those guys getting minutes over me. For the first time in my time playing, I had guys who pushed me to be better and it was up to me to step up to the challenge. To be completely honest, I do not think I did step up to the challenge and because of that I wasted a lot of potential. However, my failure as a player now drives my ambition as a coach. I am surrounded by a bunch of younger versions of myself that I can pour into the ways that I wish someone poured into me at a younger age to develop and grow me as an athlete and young man.
What made that time so special and how did it factor into life after college and continuing to work around the sport?
I learned a lot at my time at Geneva College but one of my main, tangible takeaways is how a well-orchestrated practice is supposed to look. Now, the practices that I run for Urban Impact closely resemble a Coach Santasiero practice with my own little twists added in.
What was the scouting report on you during your high school days at Ringgold High School? And who helped influence you the most as a player during those high school days?
I was a 6’5 forward/center in high school before growing a few more inches. My play really stemmed from the defensive end as I loved to block shots and play physical down low. I really admired and looked up to players like Ben Wallace, Dennis Rodman, and Dwight Howard while he was in Orlando.
How did the opportunity come about with Urban Impact Hoops and what do you appreciate the most about the chance to “make an impact” on the kids in North Pittsburgh, both on and off of the court?
I first got introduced to Urban Impact Foundation by stumbling across a summer internship as a day cam counselor. I fell in love wit the North Side of Pittsburgh and the kids in the program. It’s a blessing to get to be a stepping stone in these kids’ lives. We are growing and getting better as a program but what our record and championships don’t show is just how much a lot of our kids go through on a daily basis. To see how these guys come out of such tough situations and not only survive, but thrive, makes every minute of the craziness worth it. I just appreciate these kids.
Basketball teams are often an extension of your own family as a coach...what message do you share with your guys about building that bond over the course of a season or even away from the game?
Every time we break down our huddles before a game, we call out, “Urban Impact on three, family on six!” My goal as the Program Leader is that each of our team becomes their own little family in hopes that the organization as a whole will be a representation of what a family looks like. We do fun outings, form big cheer sections during each other’s games, and do weekly Bible studies together. All of that is fun and exciting, but what I really hope that these kids get is that they don’t have to be perfect. In fact, we want them to bring all their imperfections because in that, they have to rely on their brothers on the team. Which is a beautiful representation of what the church is supposed to look like.
The jerseys and uniforms Wooter has designed and created turned out very cool and unique. How did Urban Impact Hoops come to team-up with Wooter? And what does it mean to have a national/global brand put something special together for the kids there in Pittsburgh?
The partnership with Wooter has been fantastic. Every tournament we are in, multiple people are coming and talking to us about our jerseys. To be honest, I had no plan or method for finding Wooter or jersey sponsor. All I knew was our kids deserved something special to put on each game. I came across Wooter, put in a request, and before the day was over, we had a partnership. Wooter gave our kids the opportunity to rock something fresh and bring attention to a great company that others may never heard of.
Regardless if you are a player or a coach, you are always taking time to learn and grow in basketball. How have you grown the most as a coach since your time at UIHoops? What’s the one thing you hope your players will remember about this time with Coach Higgins when they look back years later?
My goal every year is to make it so my players don’t need me. I want my guys to have to rely on me less and less every game, tournament, and season. I want them to learn how to problem solve on their own, not to panic when they make a mistake, and ultimately, to hold themselves responsible for every win and loss. I have been blessed with a great group of young men that work their butts off and step up to this challenge every week. They love each other, they play hard for each other, and they never take their foot off the gas no matter what.