Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
The city of Compton, California, is well-known for plenty of reasons: movies, music & also one of the places that is synonymous with hip-hop culture. What many people don’t realize that it is a working-class city in which there are also middle-class people.
Compton is also the home of many athletes, including basketball players such as Baron Davis, Tayshaun Prince & current NBA pros such as Tyson Chandler (Phoenix Suns) & DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs).
However, there is one basketball movement that has brought plenty of awareness to the city, and its name is the Compton Magic. For many, many years, the program has been one of the marquee names on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit and throughout the nation.
“We’ve been doing this a long time, trying to get our kids a ton of exposure, trying to do great things in the community. That’s kind of what we do in Compton, you know, we try to get a great family atmosphere with our kids, and you know obviously, you want to have a good time, but you want to win and do all those things and build character and build confidence and build great young men. That’s what we’re trying to do with our program,” said director and coach Etop Udo-Ema.
The Magic was founded in 1993 and has been responsible for sending more than 300 student-athletes to college. “We started, my first year, when I coached at Compton High School, in 1993, so we’ve been around a long-time, we’ve got a lot of great players, a lot of pros, we’ve got eleven NBA players right now, hundreds in college. We’re just trying to continue our tradition, and do great by kids.” said Udo-Ema.
When asked to describe what the basketball scene in Compton is like, Udo-Ema replied, “Well, actually, Compton is in L.A. [Los Angeles], so L.A. is a big metropolis. Compton is a small part of L.A., so obviously we’re recruiting kids from all over, to put together the best mix. Initially, when we first started the program, in the ’90s, all of our kids were from Compton, it was really the Compton High School team. So, until we got in the mid-2000’s, 2005 to 2006, we started bringing in players from other places, and it’s kind of become a hodge-podge of what we used to be. We used to have kids only from Compton, now our kids are from all over, and the brand is just, I keep the name because that’s where the brand started. The first fifteen years, we had all Compton kids. So now, we just want to take the brand [in a different direction], and we do a lot of things in the community, we feed the homeless, we do diaper drives, but we keep it real Compton, because that’s where we started.”
Although the Compton Magic are a basketball program, it is also a family. In an urban environment, kids could be easily led astray by negative influences or some may have a lack of motivation or need guidance. The Magic provides the latter.
When asked about what message he would give a kid in need of guidance, Udo-Ema replied, “The message I give to them is this, man. Just keep fighting. And most of those kids know how to fight, you just keep fighting, and I think a lot of our kids, if we give them hope, and you fight, then usually a lot of those kids turn out fine, and that’s what we’re trying to do for our kids, give them a little bit of hope, and teach them how to fight so that the reality of it is, that most of these kids aren’t going to play in the NBA, I mean, most of those guys aren’t. Some will, most won’t and hopefully, we’re giving them an experience that will help them build character, in life, when they have a job, or work in the post office, or start working in Wall Street, in places like that.”
For many, many years, the Magic has been one of the top-tier teams on the Adidas circuit and is always one of the clear-cut favorites to be in the championship of the sneaker brand’s tournament at the end of summer.
“I’ve been Adidas for 17 years. So, I’ve grown up in the brand,” said Udo-Ema about the program’s allegiance with Adidas, “I’ve co-branded and made my brand, it’s kind of run the same. Adidas has done an awesome job with us, man, I really appreciate throughout the years, all the support and everything they’ve done for us, because obviously, half the stuff we’re doing in the community, and with our kids, would not be possible, if it weren’t for Adidas.”
And as far as pros, the Compton Magic has produced them. Since its inception, the program has sent 34 players to the NBA. Last season, 11 Magic alums on NBA rosters, such as Aaron Affalo (Orlando Magic) , Allen Crabbe (Brooklyn Nets), Jerryd Bayless (Philadelphia 76ers), David Nwaba (Chicago Bulls), Dwight Buycks (Detroit Pistons) and also Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell, who were both were a part of the Golden State Warriors franchise that won the NBA title this past June.
In the present day, the Compton Magic is thriving, as they won both the Adidas Gauntlet Finale in New York and the Adidas Summer Championships in Orange County, California. The Magic also knocked off Team Takeover, of Washington, D.C., and program from the Nike EYBL in what was hailed as the “Game of the Summer,” at the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada last month during the final NCAA Live Period.
The players on this year’s 17U team that stood out were seniors such as forward Onyeka Okongwu, a USC commit (No. 15 by ESPN), forward Isaiah Mobley (No. 14 by ESPN), forward Jaime Jacquez, Jr., a UCLA commit (No. 79 by ESPN) and juniors such as forward Jaylen Clark (unranked), forward Johnny Juzang (No. 22 by ESPN) and center Evan Mobley, who is rated as the No. 1 player nationally in the Class of 2020.
As a result of their torrid play, the Magic compiled a 46-2 record was rated the No. 1 team in the nation by websites such as Prep Hoops and Prep Circuit.
Now, the next question is: What’s next for the Compton Magic? Udo-Ema’s answer is: “Just to keep doing what we do and keep pushing forward and creating great young men.”
That just goes to show that in terms of basketball and development in the lives of youths, all is well, in the city of Compton.
Highlights of the Compton Magic:
Courtesy of Ballislife.
Courtesy of Ballislife.
Courtesy of Cam Beverly.
Courtesy of Hoop Diamonds.
Courtesy of Passport Playas TV.
Courtesy of Bandman Highlights.
Courtesy of Video Boost.