Flint United is providing hope for local hoop dreamers

FLINT, Michigan -- Lance Adams and Reggie Reed are both Flint natives with a similar goal: play professional basketball. Their paths to achieve that goal have been different, though.


Adams, who went to International Academy of Flint, played college basketball at Great Lakes Christian College where he averaged 14 points per game as a senior and then played professionally in Armenia.


Lance AdamsLike many American professional basketball players, Adams has seen overseas opportunities dwindle during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he appreciated his first opportunity to play abroad.


“It was a 13-hour trip on the plane and a heck of an experience,” said Adam, whose only other experience being out of the country was going to Canada before traveling to Armenia. “There was a lot of walking, a lot of taxis. Being a pro athlete, you have to be in a gym 24-7 and keep your head down and put in work.”


Reed, who went to Beecher, never had the opportunity to play pro or college basketball after finishing high school four years ago. His basketball dream never died, though.


“I just keep grinding every day, waiting for an opportunity, and take the best of what’s in front of me,” Reed said.


Now, though, both players have an opportunity to keep their professional dream alive right in their hometown. Both players are among several athletes who have competed in tryouts for Flint United, the city’s newest professional sports franchise, which begins play in April in The Basketball League (TBL).


Flint United owner Kevin Mays notes that one of the most exciting things about the team is the opportunities it will provide for athletes like Adams and Reed to continue playing and also build their skills as professionals and people.


“We want to provide opportunities for our athletes and make sure they’re in an environment that can push them to be greater athletes and greater people,” Mays said. “Our goal is to be a great community leader and community partner.”


Adams, a 6-foot-4 guard who made 37 percent of his three-pointers as a senior in college, prides himself on being a good teammate, noting that even if his shot isn’t falling, he still works hard defensively and tries to encourage and support his teammates in other ways on the court. He said he is grateful for having an opportunity in his hometown.


“It’s nice, man,” Adams said of getting a chance with Flint United. “I have a son, so I can be close to him here. I’ve known Matt (Flint United general manager Matt Washington) since I was in ninth grade. The team is going to be nice for the city, I’m really looking forward to it.”


Reed, a left-handed guard who can play on the perimeter and also attack the basket, said Flint United gives kids hope that they can make it in basketball, even if their path is non-traditional. He has enjoyed being able to show what he can do competing against players in tryouts with more experience in organized basketball.


Reggie Reed“It gives kids hope that you can still make it and do something positive and give back to your community,” Reed said. “Being able to play with these guys who had an advantage over me as far as going to college or working with professional trainers, I just use it as motivation to keep going no matter what the odds are.”


Since Mays announced the team would be coming to Flint in September, he has added staff members and a support system to help grow the franchise and support the players who end up on the roster. The team is coached by former NBA player and Michigan State star Charlie Bell, a Flint Southwestern graduate. Flint native Matt Washington was added as the team’s general manager. Detroit native Jalen Lee was named co-owner and vice president earlier this month.


The team will play its home games in the Dort Financial Center. Mays said that the team recently reached an agreement with the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village to be the team’s home and practice facility.


“Every day has been a new revelation and a new path to learn,” Mays said. “We now have people in place on the management side to take care of those daily duties, we have Charlie in place to handle more of the basketball stuff. We’ve got a rendering of our jerseys, been in the arena a few times ... that all makes it feel more real. It’s exciting to add the developmental pieces and have the guys in the gym and the partnership with Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village. The different elements we keep adding and what we hope to accomplish are amazing, we’re excited about it and ready to rock and roll.”


Another key element to building the franchise has been the involvement of legendary Flint players. Former Northwestern and Michigan State star and Mr. Basketball Kelvin Torbert attended a practice session January 17 and addressed the players and shared his experience. Eric Woodyard, a Flint native and ESPN reporter, also attended and spoke to the team. Mays has also been active in doing interviews on social media and promoting some of the city’s greats.


“That is where our foundation lies,” he said. “Without those guys’ support, I think I’d lose a lot of my following. We have to have those guys as a true part of this thing from the beginning to the end. They’ve had eyes on this game and our community a lot longer than I have. It’s awesome having them here and I’m super appreciative and grateful and the door is always open.”


Adams and Reed both said the presence of former Flint stars with the organization is a motivating factor.


“It brings something special here to Flint,” Adams said. “It’s important, you got Beecher, Carman, Hamady, Southwestern, all these places. You got every teenager or young adult that wants to hoop, the only thing is the hoop dream. You gotta work, basketball is real here.”


Reed agrees that the team will mean a lot to the city, to present and future players as well as preserving the past.


“There’s a lot of state championships won, a lot of big names -- Charlie Bell, Jeff Grayer, Roy Marble, Kelvin Torbert -- they paved the way for guys like me to be able to dream about doing this and keep going and fighting every day,” Reed said.


Mays and the team’s leadership are continuing to evaluate talent in preparation for training camp. He noted that the uncertainty with opportunities in overseas professional league and several NBA G-League teams opting out of playing the league’s bubble this season, could lead to more talent available for teams like Flint United.


“Looking at the global aspect of basketball right now, you still have a bunch of overseas athletes who don’t have opportunities, you have 12 teams that didn’t go into the NBA G-League bubble, so that’s another huge group of talented players that will be looking for opportunities,” Mays said. “We want to expand and grow and put the closest thing to an NBA team on the floor as we can.”


Mays said the team is open to talking with anyone interested in partnership or sponsorship opportunities. Anyone interested can email [email protected] for information.


For now, though, the team’s presence alone and the ability to keep playing dreams alive has been a success.


“It (the team being in Flint) means a lot of everyone,” Reed said. “I know we’re going to get a lot of love and everyone’s gonna support it. It gives everyone hope. There’s always alternative opinions or different ways to do things or overcome obstacles. It means everything to the city.”

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.