As a student at Bishop O’Dowd High School in East Oakland, Jason Brown had big dreams to make the NBA—a goal shared by many basketball-loving teens, but one that only becomes reality for a select few. When he didn’t make varsity his junior year, though, he realized his playing days were numbered.
“I spent the offseason training for varsity and didn’t make it. It sucked at first but I made the decision to try something different,” Brown said.
That’s when he joined the first cohort of Oakland students to go through a mentorship and training program with TEAM Inc., a local nonprofit that teaches young adults from underrepresented communities about opportunities to work in tech roles within the sports industry, and trains them in the skills to get there. The experience taught him that he could have a sports career after all, just one that didn’t require him to wear a jersey.
Since launching in 2016, TEAM Inc.—an acronym for “Tech Exposure and Access through Mentorship”—has served over 3,500 students through its various programs, the most popular of which is a 12-week core program, where students learn how to use sports analysis programs like Sportscode, cut video footage, assemble scouting reports, and perform various analytic and coding exercises. Participants are able to get hands-on experience during the summer by working for pro teams in the NBA’s Summer League or USA Basketball camps.
The program’s founders are Alexis Musante, a Bishop O’Dowd alumna and former basketball player, and Anwar McQueen, a former UC Berkeley basketball player. Each has first-hand experience with winning organizations that aren’t solely dependent on players and coaches, but all sorts of skilled professionals.
“We are focusing on career paths and roles that keep sports functioning by educating our students on the intersection of tech and sports,” Musante told The Oaklandside. “We try to instill in them why these roles are valuable, what skills are needed for them, and how they can get involved. Once they have those foundational tools, they can start to immediately plug into the landscape, from high school to college and beyond.”
McQueen, who played alongside former NBA stars like Jason Kidd and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, became a high school coach after his playing days ended, a role requiring him to learn how to break down video footage while preparing for future opponents.
“During those years after playing at the highest collegiate level, I had to confront new realities,” McQueen said. “As a player, every service was provided to me. But later, as coach and employee, I had to organize all the logistics and learn how to operate the proper technology and systems. It’s a competitive field and you have to figure out ways to incorporate it all out without being told directly.”
Eventually, he landed a gig with the University of San Francisco’s basketball team as an assistant, while simultaneously earning his masters degree in sport management. While there, he needed to prepare video replays for each game—watching highlights, cutting up the tapes, and figuring out how to best convey the information to players and coaches to inform their performance on the court. He eventually landed at Sportstec, which provides SportsCode services to most NBA teams, including the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, for video analysis, scouting, performance analytics, and consultations.
The former All-American guard hopes to pass down knowledge of how to find lifelong work in the industry to the next generation of students who love athletics but probably won’t end up as NBA All-Stars. He also realized over the years working in the field that the industry has a stark diversity problem, so he began to train and recruit young people of color.
“There was an obvious lack of people of color in the field,” McQueen says. “I saw a need for career opportunities for others while I was expanding my role in the league. I made it a big deal to give equal access for them to learn these platforms, provide mentorships, and touch on professional skills on top of the technical skills needed. Some of these individuals began to have success, and I realized I could increase the pipeline.”
That’s when he and Mustante, who has her own experience as a former athlete and educator with lifelong roots in Oakland, decided to launch TEAM Inc. to help students enter the traditionally inaccessible field.
Many of their program’s alums have found success, including Brown, who recently launched his own sports film analysis business, GameOVA (Observational Video Analysis), while currently finishing his degree at USF. “I would’ve never guessed, but this is my main way of expressing myself and I love it,” Brown said. “TEAM’s vision of building a bridge into positions like this is what got me here, and now I want to do the same.”
A member of the inaugural 2015 cohort, Brown enthusiastically describes his time learning from his mentors in the program like “a big family,” where he received chances to work with NBA teams in Las Vegas doing video analysis, something he says was “hella cool” as a 15-year-old.
Now, in addition to running his own business, Brown is collaborating with 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, a support program for Black youth, while teaming up with the San Francisco 49ers and other teams (mostly high school and junior college) to provide video analysis services. He also mentors young men of color interested in entering sports business as a career pathway. He does it all with one of TEAM’s other alumni, Josiah Harris, who he developed a friendship with during their time in the program’s first graduating class.
But it’s not only young men who are finding ways to make plays with TEAM Inc. Lety Galarza, a 2020 graduate, was a student in the program during this past year when COVID-19 forced in-person training to shift into an online format. In the end, McQueen says, the transition ended up making them an even “stronger force,” by allowing the organization to offer classes across the country.
Galarza recently landed a new job as the assistant video coordinator with the Golden State Warriors. As the first woman to be a part of the team’s coaching staff, she knows the importance of these sorts of achievements: “Playing basketball my entire life and not seeing many Latinos in the league, it’s been beautiful to see,” she said.
“I have so much love and gratitude for TEAM Inc.,” said Galarza. “They saw my skill set, invested in me, and generously offered their network. They create visibility for POCs and bridge the gap for qualified minorities to have opportunities and be seen.”
The program has shifted the narrative for youth of color in sports beyond the stereotypical trope of being the athlete who made it big time. Instead, young folks learn to see themselves as qualified, highly trained, and passionate professionals with diverse skills to offer a sports organization in ways they may have never otherwise considered.
TEAM Inc. has plans to continue expanding and serving students throughout Oakland, the East Bay, and beyond to assist even more historically marginalized students with the training and support to do so successfully. Recently, they’ve started working with companies like Salesforce and have partnerships with organizations like The Hidden Genius Project, which mentors Black male youth in tech, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills.
The program’s work was recognized last year by the NBA Foundation, which provided $2 million to seven national recipients, including TEAM. There’s no denying that the program has proven there’s a huge talent pool of young people of color right here in Oakland.
“Excuses are often made about the lack of talent in local communities of color, but people need to start thinking in creative and untraditional ways to see that this just isn’t the case,” Mustante said. “These companies need to cast a wider net in how they recruit and build relationships with communities.”