When 5-foot-3 guard of the Cleveland Rockers, Brandi McCain, discovered that she couldn’t continue to play basketball competitively in 2002, due to a knee condition, the Texan native turned her focus to coaching basketball in China, and currently coaches with HKDBL Academy for girls, by the Hong Kong Development Basketball League (HKDBL). We sat down with her to get her take on the growing popularity of the sport, and the experiences and challenges she has faced along the way as a professional athlete and coach.
I think girls and women have become faster and more athletic over time and that has caused the style of play to change overall. All the coaches are having to adjust to the new tempo style as a whole. I think social media, mixed with more athletic females, has caused women’s basketball to become more of a popular sport.
What are some of the struggles you have experienced playing basketball professionally? And how did you overcome them?
My struggles came off the court. A majority of female players in USA go overseas to play basketball. My biggest struggle was to figure out how to navigate through a world that was completely different to my own. That involved being open to different people, culture, food, and even dealing with sexism and classism towards women. Once I figured out the key to that mystery, my whole world opened up, and it made me a better basketball player because I became more comfortable.
What is your philosophy when teaching basketball?
My philosophy is based upon mentoring and helping young kids first, and then sharing my knowledge of basketball comes second. I believe in developing people first, and players second. If you can’t believe you can make a layup, then what’s the point of learning how to make a layup. I approach the game from a standpoint of mixing Buddhism and meditation with basketball. I nurture just as much of the mental and meditative aspect of the game as I do the physical side of the game. My goal is to become my players basketball mentor, not just another typical basketball coach.
What is your best memory of playing or coaching?
My best memory of playing is the first year I ever played organised basketball. I was ten years old playing in an all-boys league in my hometown. I got chosen out of ten players to join the All-Star team that went on to play in this Peewee basketball tournament in Texas. Everyone in my hometown had become accustomed to me being better than – or just as good as – all the boys, but when people at the tournament started to take note of me playing just like one of the boys, I then decided I didn’t want to just be a good player, I wanted to be great!
How has coaching affected your life?
Coaching has continued to allow me to give to the game of basketball, but in a different way. To me, basketball is something that has continued to keep on giving and change people’s lives in different ways.
What would you advise other females looking to play professionally?
I would first start off by telling other females to dream, and dream big with a vivid imagination. It starts there, and then you have to want it and love it! Then I would suggest to work, work, work, and learn and study the game. Basketball is a skilled sport that requires a lot of time and attention to detail. I would also advise anyone to put themselves in a position on and off the court to get on a college basketball team that best suits them. After you become a professional, the work never stops, so always try to grow as a player and always add something new to your game.
There’s also work to be done off the court. Make sure to network and connect as much as possible because you never know where your next job may come from. I would highly suggest to start planning your life after basketball, while you’re still playing basketball, because you also never know when your last game will come. The transition from playing basketball for the majority of your life, to retiring, or not being able to play, can be a tough adjustment. Start planning as soon as you land your first contract.
If you would like to find out more about HKDBL Academy’s upcoming Basketball Clinic with Brandi in May, visit the Hong Kong Development Basketball League website.