Former Webster University student Toreyon Times said he felt God’s presence as he approached the Toyota Center where the Houston Rockets play. A month earlier, a Rockets secretary called Times with an opportunity to tryout for the team.
“The fact that I got this opportunity is amazing,” Times said. “This is nobody but God.”
Times played basketball at Webster for only one year due to family problems and financial needs. But he will wait to see if he makes the NBA Developmental-League.
On Sept. 27, Times and his dad drove to Columbus, Ohio where the International Pro Basketball Showcase (IPBS) was held at the USA Sports Academy. The IPBS is a pro basketball combine and gives players the opportunity to play professionally. Sixty players attended the tryouts and were split into groups and evaluated on speed and agility.
“They wanted to see how fast we could catch on to plays,” Times said. “When you’re playing for the NBA and you can’t execute, you will lose the game.”
Times said he received good feedback from all of his evaluations, but was discouraged when he saw some of the players receive contracts the first day. But Times kept his faith, and on Monday he received a call from the Rockets secretary.
“She told me to come to Houston (Texas) for the last tryouts and if the coaches like me, they would give me a year contract,” Times said.
Times was working for Fed ex and at the time, there weren’t any hours available. Times said he didn’t have the extra money to get to Houston and tryouts were a week away. With his dad on disability pay and his mom in school, neither of them could help. But his sister, Tiara Johnson, became his campaign manager and looked for sponsors to help fund his trip. Johnson was able to get friends, family and church members to donate just before it was time to leave.
“God blessed him with this opportunity,” Johnson said before the Houston tryout. “I’m going to do my best to get my brother to Houston.”
Times said nothing would hold him back from his chance to play for the NBA.
“I’ll drive to Houston and sleep in my car every day if I have to,” Times said before the Houston tryout. “I mean that way I won’t have to pay hotel fees.”
Times said he dreamed of playing with the NBA League in sixth grade when he played for Cross Keys Middle School in Florissant, Mo. After middle school he attended McCleur Senior High School where he continued to play ball and traveled to other cities to compete.
In 2010 -11 he played for the Gorlok men’s basketball team. Head Coach Chris Bunch, remembers coaching Times and says he played on the junior varsity team.
“He came in pretty raw but he definitely had the physical tools,” Bunch said. “We were trying to get him to improve his offensive skills, but I could see his potential.”
Times didn’t attend Webster the following year due to his parents’ separation. He said he needed time off to re-focus and get his finances together. But getting things together financially became a struggle for Times. He moved from his parents’ house in south city to live with his brother in St.Charles to avoid the tension.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Times said. I paid rent at every relative house I stayed at so that made it hard for me to save. I constantly owed money.”
He then traveled back and forth from his siblings’ houses accumulating more debt. Last February, Times decided to go back to school. He attended Midwest Institute in Earth City to get a pharmaceutical license in six months.
“I wanted to do it because it was quick,” Times said. “I knew I needed to start making more money.”
Times graduated in August, then moved back home with his parents who were reunited.
On Oct. 18, Times flew to Houston to take advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime. When he arrived, he headed to the gym to prepare for the tryouts, two days away. Times said prayer helped him become motivated and ready to compete.
At tryouts, the players were evaluated on setting screens, three point shooting and they worked on playing in a fast-paced offense.
“I was used to shooting three’s but I wasn’t used to shooting NBA three’s,” said Times.
Sitting in the stands were three Rockets players, Dwight Howard, Aaron Brooks and James Harden. Times played the shooting guard position, which is where Harden starts for Houston.
After the players finished the plays, they were told the draft is on Nov. 1, and if they’re selected they would go to training camp in the D-League.
“I was so excited to be down there,” Times said. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.”