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Former NBA Star explains motivation behind Irving DriveNation


Irving, Texas. July 31, 2018

It's not just coaching for Jermaine O'Neal.

Don't get it wrong; the six-time NBA All-Star, who played 18 seasons in the league, still has the competitive fire in him and wants to win whenever possible, and a Peach Jam title would be nice. However, that's not what he feels his main focus is as the coach of Drive Nation, the Texas-based Nike EYBL basketball program.

"All I'm doing is giving back what was given to me," O'Neal said of his role as a leader for the young athletes in the Drive Nation program that he founded.

O'Neal's upbringing in Columbia allowed him to have mentors like Xavier McDaniel, Alex English and Tyrone Corbin. O'Neal, who said he didn't meet his dad until he was 30, said the lessons he learned from the trio of former NBA players were instrumental in making him the man he grew into.

Now he has a passion to similarly pass on wisdom to the young athletes in his Drive Nation program. He started getting involved in coaching and the youth basketball scene after his playing career ended four years ago.

"When we can reach out as coaches and give back to these kids and touch them with the knowledge and with the thought process to give them the opportunity to do something that they dream about doing, that's what God put us here for," O'Neal said.

As for his transition into the coaching realm, O'Neal said he's seen a bit of a mixed bag reaction-wise, but he understands that it's all about competitiveness.

"Well one thing you can't say is that I don't know basketball," O'Neal said. "Obviously, you get an NBA player who's had success coming into a space and some of it's going to be welcomed and some of it is not going to be welcomed. It's just competitive nature. Part of me is always going to be competitive."

That competitive spirit combined with wanting to help young athletes is why O'Neal also put forward $13 million of his own money to build the Drive Nation Sports Complex, a 94,000 square foot, state-of-art indoor multi-sport, training, and events facility in Irving, Texas.

A big part of what O'Neal tries to instill in his players is that it's all about putting in hard work and having the right mindset.

"If we continue, as leaders in our communities, we can drive kids and help them understand what life is really about and help parents understand that it's nobody else's job to raise your kids," O'Neal said. "Some of these parents in the basketball world want to be paid for their kids and want to be given this and given that. That's not what this is supposed to be. This is supposed to be about getting rewarded off of your hard work. That's it."

The Columbia native, who now lives in the Dallas area, already has big plans in the works and hopes to continue to have a large impact on helping the youth for the rest of his life.

"I enjoy it. I love it," O'Neal said. "I'm looking forward to being around this thing for the next – well until God comes and gets us."

Presented by Aiken Standard

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