Al Nolen didn’t know how much his time with the Brooklyn Center boys basketball team was going to affect his future.
Nolen, a star player at Patrick henry High School before playing with the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team, re-joined his high school coach when he joined Brooklyn Center as an assistant under head boys basketball coach Matthew McCollister. That experience working under McCollister gave Nolen an idea of his own, to open the Nolen Basketball Academy.
“Going down to Brooklyn Center and working under [Brooklyn Center head boys basketball coach Matthew McCollister] and seeing how they used to run their clinics last summer gave me the idea,” Nolen said. “I bounced it off him a couple times and he told me to go for it and run the basketball academy.”
Nolen’s eight-week clinics are for children between the ages of nine and 15. Nolen runs his clinics out of Davis Community Center in Golden Valley.
“I decided this summer that I was going to do something a little different,” Nolen said. “I would give the kids an hour and a half, provide them with some drinks and the equipment, and I thought it would be a good thing.”
So far, those who have participated in the clinics have been impressed. Monica Litt, the mother of one of the clinic’s participants, said she was impressed with what she saw from Nolen’s teachings during the clinic.
“This was a great clinic, he does a great job,” Litt said. “It shows he can work with a wide range of ages, which is really cool because they all work hard.”
Frank Stokes took his 14-year-old son, mason, to the clinic after hearing Nolen speak on KFAN.
“I remember Al playing for the Gophers and I’m trying to get Mason some ball handling drills,” Stokes said. “I figured Al would be a good resource for that.”
Nolen said his basketball academy is just one of the ways he is trying to give back to the game.
“I always tell people that I had so many mentors and so many people help me along the way,” Nolen said. “I went to camps, coaches picked me up and dropped me off, my mother, my father and I just want to give back to the game since I can’t play anymore.
“All I want now is to give back to the youth.”
Nolen is also doing what he can to coach at the high school level, as he is also helping Park Center head boys basketball coach James Ware with his summer camps.
“In the summer I work out with [Park Center head basketball coach James Ware] and I do whatever he needs me to do,” Nolen said. “I just want to be around the summertime since I can’t coach, I just like being with the kids.”
Nolen moved from Brooklyn Center to Park Center after the 2016-17 season after securing an administration job at Park Center.
“I saw the opening pop up at Park Center, I was working at Henry High School, I applied and I talked to our principal at Park Center, Heather Miller-Cink, and I was torn,” Nolen said. “They said they could offer me the position, but if I took the position I couldn’t coach because I had other responsibilities.
“It was hard for me to decide because I was in the middle of Brooklyn Center, but, thankfully, I was able to finish the season with BC before starting the new job.”
Despite all the work he has put in to help the local basketball community, Nolen said teaching local athletes has also helped him learn how to teach the game.
“It is definitely a lot different,” Nolen said. “I tell my coaches all the time that I don’t know how they did it.
“I didn’t know how hard it was to teach the game opposed to how it is learning the game. It is a big adjustment, but I am loving it.”
Follow Sun Post sports editor Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris and on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.