Ben Strong continues to fight for the underdog both on and off the court

 

By: Aaron Tomich | @AaronTomich78


"It’s special to me to be able to...give (Native American youth) a little bit more of a role model" - Ben Strong

Ben Strong is one of the best players in Guilford College history. The 6-foot-10 forward not only finished second all-time in scoring (2,231 points), but was also named D3 Player of the Year in 2008.

Despite this, Strong has been doubted nearly his entire professional career simply for playing at a Division 3 school.

“Many people discredit (Division 3) players as not good enough to play with strong competition,” said Strong, who will suit up for We Are D3 in TBT 2018.  “The guys on D3 will have a bit of a chip on our shoulders, and people might see a little more tenacity and more grind out of our team.”

After college, Strong went on to play eight years of professional basketball both internationally and in the United States. From Maccabi Haifa B.C. (Israel) to the Westchester Knicks (G-League), Strong showcased his immense talent.

In addition to having to fight for respect on the basketball court, Strong has worked hard to try and represent his culture. Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he is of Native American heritage – more specifically that of the Chippewa tribe in Minnesota.

“Being 6-foot-10 and playing in the G-League, he brings a lot of heroism to his culture,” said We Are D3 head coach Michael Rejniak.

Community outreach, particularly to Native American youth, is very important to Strong.  His involvement with tribes across the country include life coaching and running basketball clinics.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have different reservations and tribes invite me out and speak to the kids about different things, like the importance of school, the importance of having mentors or support systems in your life, setting goals and how to stick to them,” said Strong.

Native American youth as a whole have the odds stacked against them in a few different ways, according to Strong. Whether it be poverty or parents that might not know how to raise and support a family, often times children are set up for failure.

“It’s special to me to be able to give back and give (Native American youth) a little bit more of a role model – somebody who's gone to college and gone beyond college and had some successes off the reservation,” said Strong.

Though Strong retired from professional basketball in 2016 to get into coaching, his blue-collar character lives on.  

“(Division 3 basketball) just showed me that it doesn't really matter where you come from,” said Strong, “it matters what the product is and that’s really important. It’s not about where you grew up or where you went to school, it’s all about results.”

“I can feel more confident that I can accomplish anything,” said Strong. “I can’t get over-confident because it’s not about what I’ve done in the past, it’s about what’s in front of me.”

 

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