By Will LeBlond
See a need, fill a need. That is what recent Ithaca College graduate Khalil Griffith did with his co-founder James Williams in establishing the Ithaca Elite Basketball Club.
The club, for players ranging from fourth grade all the way through seniors in high school, had a modest beginning, but Griffith says that the principal objective of skills development is what drove the success of the program.
“As a starter program, it made the most sense to start small. You have to make a name for yourself,” Griffith says. “We really tried to bring something different to the Ithaca and central New York area, whether it be skill development, travel experience or things that go beyond the court like holding these guys to a higher standard and having them held accountable for their actions.”
Griffith started to establish these ethics in his club when he launched it in the spring of 2014 while he was still attending Ithaca College. At the beginning the duo’s club had just a few teams and involved only boys; now the program has grown to include some 125 players of both genders.
The team has helped players grow, and even given them opportunities to get looked at by college coaches for recruiting, which Griffith thinks shows how well the program has grown over the few years that it has been in existence.
“It’s very rewarding, it’s not something we do for us, we do it for them,” said Griffith. “To only be here for the last few years and having some of these kids that probably only dream of going to college, but never had the experience or didn’t know where to start, to now a few years later have them in a position to get recruited by a Division III, Division II and even in some instances a Division I school shows that we’ve come a long way.”
One way that the program helps the players in gaining this college exposure is by participating in NCAA circuit events, which act as an NCAA-sanctioned event where teams compete in front of college coaches.
Among the success stories from the program at the college ranks, Griffith cites players at Keuka College in the western part of the Finger Lakes and another player who hopes to play locally at Griffith’s alma mater on South Hill.
While Griffith hopes that growth can continue, he plans to attend the University of Connecticut in the fall to pursue a graduate degree in sport management, which creates a geographic challenge for him to continue his work with the kids that he has grown to know on and off the court. He will not be in the Ithaca area during the majority of his time, but he still hopes to be involved and foresees continued growth.
“The dream is to maximize the exposure for these individuals,” he says. “We’re really looking to expand in the number of individuals that we can send on to college and hopefully be playing sports.”
By Will LeBlond