Lucas Olson-Patterson was going through a self-identity crisis in the late 2000s. The former Robbinsdale Cooper and Augsburg college basketball player, who starred at both schools during the early 2000s, had come to the realization that his basketball career was over.
“I had a taste of professional basketball,” said Olson-Patterson, who played for the Minnesota Ripknees of the ABA before the team folded during the 2007-08 season. “But when it was over, I realized that my identity was connected to basketball.”
Patterson-Olson, who stands at 6’-5”, decided then that he didn’t want future basketball prospects to follow his path. With that belief, the Minneapolis Future Academic Ballers program (MplsFAB) was established in 2009 through the Neighborhood Youth Academy (NYA).
The MplsFAB program is not your average basketball program. With the NYA, a nonprofit organization that focuses on closing the achievement gap for underserved youth, MplsFAB combines academics and athletics through unique strategies to arm students athletes with the tools needed to succeed beyond the basketball court.
“We know that there are a lot of good basketball players that come from the inner city,” Olson-Patterson said. “We started this program to not only develop great basketball players, but [also to develop] young men with skills and abilities outside of basketball.”
Olson-Patterson stated that MplsFAB has eight key components that drive the program. These include a book club, progress reports, life coaching sessions, study tables, nutrition, a positive rewards program, educational components, and basketball skill development and training.
It’s not a coincidence that the basketball skill development and training is the final component listed. “It’s about academics and basketball in that order,” stressed Olson-Patterson.
His statement is supported by partnerships the NYA has established with schools, community-based learning centers, and athletic organizations to focus on literacy development and the STEM program that focuses on math and science.
Oh! They play basketball, too.
The program originally had one fourth-grade team. Today there are multiple teams, including a seventh-grade team that just placed ninth in a tournament in North Carolina.
“It was a good experience for the players,” Olson Patterson said.
After an outstanding career at Robbinsdale Cooper, Olson-Patterson went on to average 22 points per game at Augsburg from 2003-05 and was one of the top Division III players in the country.
He made it clear that it’s not about him anymore. “It’s about developing these young men,” he said. “It’s all about them.”
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.