Joel Box has lots of interesting stories about his time as a professional basketball player overseas, but he's equally excited about his work teaching young ball players in Quincy.
"I fell in love with Quincy and what I'm doing now. My main thing is basketball lessons for kids," Box said.
The 6-foot, 8-inch Box graduated from Quincy University in 2007 after playing basketball there as a senior. He played ball in Turkey his first year as a professional player, earning $3,000 a month. A few years later he earned $15,000 per month, playing a 10-month season. He got to play in several countries, most of them with strong Muslim influences.
Box and a teammate were knocked off their feet by a bomb blast during one series of games within the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq.
These days he's more interested in being a positive role model for young players he trains in classes and basketball camps. Box also is assistant coach at John Wood Community College, where he attended for a couple of years as an undergrad.
"When I speak to kids, I tell them how extremely blessed we are to be living in this country and have the freedoms we do," Box said.
How are you involved in your community?
I currently run a basketball skill and development program for boys and girls of all ages. I also was just named assistant coach at John Wood Community College.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it?
I train kids every day in basketball lessons working on their fundamentals and skills of the game. What I like most about my job is the fact I get to impact young people on a daily basis. I know so many kids in the community look up to me, and I try to be the best role model I can be.
What is a typical workweek like?
I usually train about 12 kids in the morning in small groups and then another 12 kids in the evening. I work seven days a week training around 80 kids each week, and rarely do I ever have a day off.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it?
My first job was playing professional basketball overseas once I graduated college. I played nine seasons in different countries all over the world. I remember so much during my time overseas, but the thing that sticks with me the most is when I was almost killed by a bomb.
How do you balance everything?
I am a pretty organized person. Sometimes it's difficult trying to balance everything I do with kids in the community and also trying to make sure I have a life. So many times I have to give up my plans to help other kids out whether that's basketball lessons or just helping them out in some way. I'm one to always put others ahead of myself.
Which person has influenced you the most and why?
My dad. My dad is the hardest working person I know. My dad is one that grew up with a very rough childhood. My dad spent so many years in and out of prisons, was shot four times, stabbed multiple times, was arrested on charges like robbery, arson, car theft and much more. To watch him completely change his life around and become the amazing father he is today has truly been amazing. He's taught me so many lessons throughout my life, and I look at my dad as my hero.
Have you ever failed at something? (Care to give details? How did you recover?)
I don't like to use the word failed. I look at things that didn't work out or go as planned as just one way or ways that wasn't the right way. When I'm training kids I try to come up with new ways to improve each kid's skill. Sometimes the things I come up with don't work like I thought it would, and it's just one way I learned not to do it again. Then I end up figuring out the right way to do it.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me is the ability to do what you love every day. I consider myself successful because I absolutely love my job and the fact I get to impact young people on a daily basis. It's not always easy, but I absolutely love my job.
What was your proudest professional moment?
My proudest moment is when I won my first championship overseas. I was playing in one of the biggest tournaments in Asia, and it was the championship game and the game was tied 74-74 with 11 seconds left. We had the ball and held the ball for the last shot. Our point guard shot a mid-range jump shot that hit the back of the rim, and I tipped it back in at the buzzer to win the Gulf Cup. Not only did that shot win the game for us, but it gave me a $16,000 bonus for winning. It also started my pro career off because my career really took off after making that game-winning shot.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion?
Fishing. I love to relax by the water, go after some catfish and relax my mind.
What is the biggest need in your community?
I think one of the biggest needs is impacting this young generation. I believe that if we can start changing people's lives starting at a young age then we will start to see the community improve all around. At the end of the day, I believe the only person you can control is yourself. Life is a personal journey. We can't stop someone from making bad choices like teenage pregnancy, violent acts, drug use and other illegal activities. I believe the best we can do is offer people hope/inspiration by sharing the methods we used to get ahead in life. I try to use my life stories and what I've been through in my life to impact others. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I believe that I'm here to help change the community of Quincy.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community?
It allows me to develop the habit of being thankful. It promotes positive relationships. It improves your social life not just for myself but for the kids I work with and others.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be?
I would say to pay more attention to what people around me were trying to teach me. You can learn so much from people if you learn to look and listen properly. So many times, on a daily basis, people don't look or listen to those around them. There are so many opportunities every day to learn something, but one day these opportunities will be gone and you'll be missing the one thing you have plenty of now -- time.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them?
I would probably spend them training more kids. Training 80-plus kids each week is tough, and sometimes I don't know how I manage to get it done. A few more hours in a day would definitely help. My goal is to one day have my own gym here in Quincy where I can train kids anytime I want to.
Do you live by any mantra or saying?
"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."
Career aspirations aside, name one thing you definitely want to accomplish in your lifetime.
I have accomplished a lot at the age of 32 that most people wouldn't do in a lifetime, but one thing I would definitely say that I want to accomplish is helping young people in becoming the best people they can be and to help them make wise decisions. You see the most important thing in this life is the kids. They are the future, and I'm just trying to impact as many as I can in a positive way.