By the time he finished playing professional basketball in Europe, Jason Perez felt like he was through with the game.
“I’d been doing basketball for such a long time, the last thing I wanted to do after I stopped playing was keep doing it,” said Perez, who starred for the Wichita State University Shockers from 1997 to 2000 before playing overseas.
But after losing a job in the construction industry because of the economy and being asked to tutor several young players, Perez realized his future might be tied up with his past.
He started Next Level Hoops Academy four years ago. On Nov. 15, he’ll hold a grand opening for the academy’s new 50,000-square-foot facility in Bel Aire.
“This is my life’s calling, teaching basketball,” he said.
The building has six basketball courts and eight volleyball courts, the latter to be used by the ICT Mavs volleyball club. It also houses two tenants – Blue Chip Spine, which offers physical therapy, and Pureformance, which specializes in strength and conditioning.
“We knew that just having basketball, it would be tough to make it,” Perez said. “Volleyball is very popular here, and a lot of it has to do with (the) Wichita State” women’s volleyball program.
The basketball academy trains young male and female players from age 6 and up, with former Kansas State University player and Friends University coach Gayla Soyez teaching the girls. Perez’s brother Carlos, who also played basketball in college, is also moving here to join the staff.
Individual instruction is available, but much of the coaching is done in connection with the academy’s teams, which compete in AAU games. Those teams have traveled as far as Las Vegas and Chicago to play games.
Perez said it’s a relief for the academy to have its own location after moving between several area gyms in the past.
Perez said he knows that his pupils are too young to remember him playing at WSU – if they were alive at all then.
“They remember now the Ron Bakers,” he said, referring to one of the current Shocker stars. “That doesn’t bother me.”
Perez said his goal is to turn out players in his own mold, though whether any repeat his success ultimately depends on their talent and perseverance. Perez was a three-time conference all-star in college who remains the Shockers’ career leader in steals and ranks sixth in scoring. He was inducted into the Shocker Sport Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“I was a very fundamentally sound player, so I teach the fundamentals,” he said. “I’m not going to teach the kids how to do crazy crossover moves and all that. Keep it simple. It might be boring, but it gets the job done.”
Now you know
Next Level Hoops Academy
Address: 5260 N. Toler Drive, Bel Aire
Owner: Jason Perez