WAXHAW — Tamar Slay Basketball and We Got Next is thinking big.
Slay, of Waxhaw, spent 12 years playing professional basketball after a successful college career at Marshall University in his native West Virginia and the former second-round pick in the NBA Draft turned his talent, knowledge and experience in retirement into mentoring young basketball players through various camps and travel teams. Slay was a second-round draft pick by the New Jersey Nets in 2002. He also played for the Charlotte Bobcats and for several professional teams overseas.
Now, Slay is expanding his reach with We Got Next that will go beyond just the teaching the fundamentals of basketball. Slay, who has funneled his own money into the program, is looking for a permanent home for his organization in Union County to bring We Got Next under one roof. We Got Next is a 501(C) non-profit foundation.
“We have AAU teams, we have basketball camps, we have basketball clinics for at-risk kids,” Slay said. “But our program is just not for at-risk kids. Kids need guidance and they need something to do in the afternoons to occupy their time. We want to shape these young kids into young adults and being a winner in life.”
Slay’s basketball programs use gyms at Cuthbertson schools and Marvin AME Zion Church in Waxhaw. But to expand beyond just basketball skills, We Got Next is looking to find a home to install two full basketball courts, administrative offices and space for afternoon study hall and academic mentoring among other needs.
Slay, who also coaches the middle school basketball team at Cuthbertson, said the primary focus will be to provide affordable after-school programs for elementary and middle school-aged children. Those programs would include extended life skill training and workshops for exceptional children that have aged-out of school-funded programs.
A financial needs statement for the 2018 launch totals over $150,000 needed to expand We Got Next.
“There is still funding that needs to be done as well,” Slay said. “I would like to have a home base, that is our next step. If we can get the funds, it will be a game-changer for us and the community. We have some fundraisers that we are trying to organize now.”
We Got Next got a huge boost recently when current NBA player Alexis Ajinca joined the organization. Ajinca, 7-foot-2, is currently on the New Orleans Pelicans roster but his season ended last December when he suffered a knee injury. Ajinca was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft and he has also played for Dallas and Toronto. He is a native of France and owns a home in Waxhaw.
“He has joined the team and donated,” Slay said. “But he doesn’t want to just donate, he wants to come in and work with the kids. We speak every day, and it has been a blessing for him to join our team. We want to see these kids have good mentors around here.”
Slay said his own difficult upbringing led him to give back to the community when his playing days ended. Slay was recently hired by the NBA Players Association as a regional representative to mentor rookie NBA players.
“Once I retired from playing professional basketball, I decided I wanted to give back,” Slay said. “I started back home and here in Union County. We have impacted a lot of kids in the past and we have a lot of great plans for the future for what we want to do. We have after-school programs that we are going to start. We are going to have programs for special needs children. A lot of those kids tap out at age 18 and there is no program for them at all.”