Dillon Knowles is yet another story of a young Bahamian basketball player paying it forward to the up-and-coming generation after having made it to the tertiary level.
He now spends most of his time doing all that he can to assist the next wave of basketball talent on the island with his own skills programme, “D1 D’Velopment.”
His journey to his current status as a player development mentor all began some years ago when he transferred from Grand Bahama in 2008 to play at West Oak Academy in Florida where he continued playing high school basketball. He later transferred and graduated from Orangewood Christian High School in Maitland, Florida. The current head coach of the Sunland Stingers’ Under 17 boys basketball team later transitioned to playing college basketball for the Webber International University Warriors upon graduating high school in 2011.
Once the 6'2'' forward’s four-year playing career with the Warriors had concluded, Knowles spent minimal time assisting as a coach at his collegiate alma mater. He also spent some time coaching in the National Post Grad Basketball Association (NPGBA) and Sunshine lndependent Athletic Association (SIAA).
Now it has all come full circle for the budding local high school coach. Once a member of the Sunland family before his transfer to West Oak, Knowles now constantly looks to impart his knowledge of the game onto the Stingers’ Under 17 squad, while also serving as an assistant coach for the senior boys under head coach Jay Philippe and assistant coach Marco Cooper.
Given his experience playing at the collegiate level he knows first-hand how difficult collegiate life can become. But given his testimony on his experience, Knowles is well equipped to lead a younger slate of players toward their goals.
“Going into college, any college really, everyday you want to quit. It requires a lot of determination and discipline. So just that alone helps you to understand what it takes to be successful; not just in basketball but in life,” Knowles shared. “Some days you wake up having practice at 5:00 a.m. Then you have to lift weights right after. Then you have classes and then later you’re right back at practice again. Then you have homework, group projects, your personal life - it takes a lot and helps you to really put things in perspective and prioritize.”
Once that chapter of playing collegiately had ended, ‘Coach D’, as he is affectionately known by his players, shifted his sights to the coaching ranks. As he expressed to this daily he was not given a position as a post-graduate coach right away.
Once his brief stint had concluded Knowles returned home where his fellow Webber attendee in Philippe brought him onboard Sunland’s coaching staff.
“When it comes to coaching, a lot of people require experience. So coming out of school with not much coaching experience is a feat amongst itself, especially when you add it on top of not being an American. That made it twice as hard.
“When I first came out of college I was managing a liquor store and I’d help out at Webber with some of the teams. I had a friend there coaching so I would help him out. Once my OPT (Optional Practical Training) was done Philippe added me to the Sunland staff. We went to school together so he knew what I was capable of and my knowledge of the game.
“From there I began helping them and make the most out of being an assistant.”
The Stingers blossomed into a team that became two-time GBSSAA senior boys champions with Philippe and Cooper at the helm. Once Knowles joined the staff as an assistant he took pride in managing some of the players and motivating them on a daily basis.
“From there I tried to do my best and help the players and help them understand what it takes to get to the next level and the routes they should take to get there.
“Not much attention is paid to anyone below the Under 20 boys. Working with the Under 17 crew you find some guys aren’t basketball players but they’re just playing to play. So it’s hard to find that balance where you’re trying to motivate the guys that want to play and the guys that are just playing.
“But the most rewarding part has been the relationship I developed with them and see how they’ve grown and understand life better. It’s always good when you see someone you coached a few years back come back and say ‘Coach thank you so much. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t understand X,Y,Z.’ To me that’s the most rewarding part.”
More than garnering fame or accolades from playing the game of basketball, Knowles aspired to coach the game ever since he was young. The skills development coach shared he wanted to assist in adding a new layer to the coaching landscape on the island focusing on every little detail that goes into the game of basketball.
“For me coaching is my passion and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a young boy growing up in Freeport we didn’t have much people help us understand how to play or help us with the little minute things that go into basketball. Going to Webber and being in those coaching systems you really see the details that really go into the game.
“And that’s what I want to do - I want to get that out to these kids in The Bahamas because we don’t get that kind of training like they do in the United States. I want to instill that Warrior mentality and never say die attitude and to get them to always give their best. Once you give your best at all times you will never feel like you want or could have done more because you know you did your best.”
With his third year as head coach of the Under 17 boys looming, the young coach is fixated on simply leaving an impact on the players’ lives.
“I just want to make an impact. I just want them to be better than I was. I want to help guys not make the same mistakes that I did. That’s my biggest goal.”
His skills training camp, “D1 D'Velopment” is budding and focuses on getting players to understand what to expect on the basketball court and how to approach each game. The skills training is appointment based with a minimal fee for high school students.