Hoops star scores as a mentor

Former professional and Marquette University basketball player Joe Chapman of Port Washington started an academy in which he teaches students life lessons as well as basketball skills. Port High is one of several places in the area where Chapman runs sessions. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Joe Chapman of Port Washington was at a bit of a crossroads a couple of years ago.

The Marquette University alum who played with Dwayne Wade on that 2003 Final Four team went on to play professional basketball for 11 years on a few different continents.

During summers, he returned home to run basketball camps at Marquette for years, and Homestead girls’ coach Corey Wolf asked him to work with the Highlanders. He also became the personal trainer of Homestead’s Chloe Marotta, one of the top players in the state who was going to attend Marquette.

One career was heading toward its twilight, while another may have been ready to take off.

But like all athletes retiring from doing what they love and have known their whole lives isn’t easy.

“Come December, I was still going to go play, but at that time my clientele racked up and I had to make a decision of what I wanted to do,” Chapman said.

“I made the hardest decision to stop playing and help other people reach their dreams.”

He started the Chapman Basketball Academy and holds sessions for individuals, small and large groups on weeknights and weekends across the area, including Port, Mequon, Glendale, Milwaukee and Random Lake. In summer, he plans to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

While the sport and Chapman’s resume is the attraction for young athletes, Chapman focuses just as much on the game of life.

That game early on was an incredibly difficult one for Chapman. He grew up around gang and gun violence on the south side of Chicago, and got involved with gangs in middle school. Both of his parents were addicted to drugs and died at an early age.

“I dealt with a lot of things early in life that helped shape my character,” Chapman said.

Basketball was his ticket out of the rough neighborhood. Chapman became the all-time leading scorer at Bloom High School — half an hour from where Wade starred at Harold L. Richards High — and was a two-time All-American and McDonald’s All-American nominee.

That experience alone helps him build relationships quickly when he works with urban housing in downtown Milwaukee.

But Chapman was about to embark on plenty more life experience that would help him with his second career.

After graduating from Marquette, he went on to play professionally overseas.

Among his stops were England — he was named British Basketball Player of the Year in 2009 — the Czech Republic, Mexico, Chile and Japan, where his twin sons were born four years ago.
Playing for the NBA of Japan, Chapman said, was special.

“The fans there are great. It’s an unbelievable environment,” he said.

Chapman’s team had an interpreter, but only at practices. Fortunately, many grocery stores had English translations, he said.

Chapman appreciated the variety of places he lived, but living out of a suitcase eventually became draining.

“At first it was fun, going to places for nine to 10 months of the year,” he said. “You have to learn how to operate on your own. It helps shape who you want to be.”

The experience of playing in 18 different countries gets passed on to students at Chapman’s academy.

“It has helped me to understand it’s a bigger world than the world you see inside your community,” he said.

And he is using his communications degree.

“I’m always in a room full of people talking about things. It helped me to be comfortable in that environment,” he said.

Sometimes, he is the only black person in the room.

“One of the main things that helped me personally is being comfortable in my own skin in any environment. It doesn’t matter your color, creed or religion,” he said.

He teaches his students to be comfortable in new environments as well.

And he wants to find out what makes them tick. What is bothering them — like a girlfriend or boyfriend.

“The more you can learn about that person, the more they can trust you,” he said. “Once you have their trust, they will give you everything they have on the court.”

Chapman serves as a mentor, teacher and coach who pushes his students.

“It comes down to holding them accountable. A lot of kids at camps don’t listen; they’re here to have fun. I’m calling them out, making sure they touch the line (in drills), make eye contact,” he said.

He requires his students to write down what they’d like to get better at and what they learned from his academy.

“I’m always pushing them to be better,” he said.

Chapman hopes he can have the impact all of his coaches had on him. He said he’s had good coaches at every level, and his sophomore and varsity coaches are in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In two years, Chapman has reached more than 400 student athletes from first grade through high school seniors and has started an Amateur Athletic Union program. He has built up a staff of six and works with former Marquette stars Steve Novak and Travis Diener on summer camps.

“In two years, with the amount of people already reached and the quality of kids I do have, I think it could be really special,” he said.

Helping students find success who may not have otherwise is what Chapman likes best.

“That’s the gratifying part, is reaching kids that didn’t think they could do stuff,” he said.

As for that memorable 2003 Marquette team, Chapman recalled that every one of the 10 or 11 scholarship players played at least one year professionally, “which is unheard of.”

“Not a lot of teams can say that. That’s how special we were.”

Practices, he said, were more difficult than games. Coach Tom Crean pushed hard, and Chapman still stays in touch with him.

The rest of the team’s bond remains solid as well.

“We’re all still communicating,” Chapman said, “wishing each other happy birthdays and for our kids’ birthdays.”

For more information, visit www.chapmanbasketballacademy.com.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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