After his first team all-region honors at NJCAA St. Louis Community College-Meramec in the 2009-10 season, Dietrick Sooter had a goal to play international professional basketball. In his final two years of college at Webster University, his goals shifted to a coaching career, but now the spark to play basketball has recently returned.
Sooter transferred to Webster after two seasons at Meramec. As a member of the now defunct Magic, he broke multiple records in three-point and free throw shooting. As a Gorlok, he began to feel that coaching was his calling. He was planning to come back for the 2013-14 men’s basketball season as an assistant coach under Webster coach Chris Bunch.
In the past week, Sooter said he received three letters from recruiters and sports management agencies about trying out for international teams. Teams that would have about 200 scouts in the stands.
But the one that showed the most interest is a more personal operation. A letter Sooter received from Whitecox & Lyons Sports Management invited him to a combine in Chicago on May 18.
There, he has the chance to be represented by Whitecox & Lyons as a professional basketball player.
“One season, I was at the point to where I didn’t even want to play anymore,” Sooter said. “Then getting these letters boosted my hopes. Now, I’m playing with better players. How I’m used to competing helps my motivation to continue.”
Bunch said that in his 11 years with Webster, he doesn’t know of any athlete who has made an international team.
Sooter has begun to work with experienced and professional coaches and trainers to prepare him for the opportunity.
Drew Hanlen is the founder and CEO of Pure Sweat, a basketball training company. He consults NBA teams and players and also trains NBA prospects such as Washington Wizards guards Brad Beal and John Wall and Golden State Warriors forward David Lee. Hanlen said he travels usually 15 to 25 times per month to train with current players and prospects of the NBA.
Hanlen, like Beal, Lee and Sooter, played high school basketball in the St. Louis area. While Sooter may not have the NBA talent that Hanlen usually works with, assistant coach at Meramec Bob Frischman introduced the two and Hanlen has continued to mentor Sooter.
“(Frischman) introduced me to Dietrick and said, ‘He is a short, white guy similar to you,’” Hanlen said. “We worked out a few times, and I invited him to a few open courts with clients and friends.”
Through that relationship, Sooter has played with and against NBA talents, and works with Hanlen free of charge.
“I’m helping him out as a friend who wants to see him get the most out of his basketball ability,” Hanlen said. ”I definitely think he has the ability to play at an international level if he is willing to put in the work.”
Hanlen offers all his training sessions for free, but asks his clients to give him whatever they think it was worth. He said when dealing with millionaires, “it turns out pretty well for me usually.”
Whitecox & Lyons are stationed in Huntington Beach, Calif., but have set up combines all around the U.S. CEO Dustin Simcox said that his sports management style is special in that he chooses to travel the country and set up more local camps that cost $200. He said his competitors charge $500, not including transportation to the camp that may be across the country for some athletes. Simcox and his team choose the players they want to represent from camps that have a maximum of 35 players.
Simcox said his company chooses to travel more to where the athletes are because he wants to build a relationship with them.
“I feel like (the athletes) being in the home environment, they aren’t going to be jetlagged and tired from the traveling,” Simcox said. “I feel that is the best representation of them at the combine.”
The combine is a one-day tryout that puts the athletes through drills, a basketball IQ test and then five-on-five games for the players to showcase their skills.
Simcox is representing players on teams like the Dublin Thunder from Ireland and the Etzella Ettelbruck from Luxembourg, Germany. He said a typical rookie contract is between $1,750 and $2,500 per month, with living expenses, a car, taxes and transportation to and from the U.S. all paid for.
Simcox said Whitecox & Lyons’ main goal is to recruit athletes who still have a passion to play but don’t have an opportunity in major professional leagues such as the NBA. That is the situation that Sooter finds himself in.
“I think I’m at that point (that coaching would be my career) and about burnt out,” Sooter said. “But the thing is, I still have that passion, and I when I watch basketball I just want to play it. It sucks to watch.”
Simcox said playing international basketball is at least an experience that he enjoys helping athletes have. Many have had the opportunity for a coaching career either by coming to the U.S. or staying overseas, he said.
“I really want to get on with coaching,” Sooter said. “Unless I get an extended offer that is huge that I can’t pass, then I’ll come back and it will be just an experience — but a cool way to end my career.”