Passion, purpose, and play are the best words to describe John Saintignon.
His passion for basketball, his understanding to play the game well and his purpose to make a positive impact on the next generation of players is what makes him special to the game and the sports industry at large.
As a young athlete, John not only led his college team, the University of California San Diego, in scoring; but also led the entire NCAA in scoring averaging 31.2 points per game during the 1985-1986 Basketball Season.
Post his career as a player, John experienced success on the sidelines of the court as an NCCA Pac 12 Coach and FIBA Head Coach. But his reach to impart his love for the game is far and wide. As an NBA Scout and partnering founder of the OC Magic Organization, John Saintignon helps develop and guide future players for their success on and off the court.
In his latest book, "Take Your Shot, Make Your Play," John lays the foundational principles for anyone who's looking to shoot their shot in life.
We had the opportunity to talk with John about his lifelong passion for basketball, how you can play for success and the vital importance of using your influence to help others.
What was the Lightbulb Moment that you knew basketball was something special to you and you were gifted with the ability to play as well as coach the game?
"I think the moment came when I was a kid when a friend of mine suggested we try out for the basketball team in 6th grade. It was my first time getting to be around basketball in that facet and I experienced success with it. It was nothing that happened over night; however by eighth grade, I had made the decision that basketball was something I experienced joy with. So that’s what started it. I had played all the other sports which have been instrumental to me, but basketball was fast, unpredictable, had change of pace and brought out a unique emotion that resonated with me [unrivaled by no other sport]."
So the Lightbulb Moment came in a decision?
"Well in life, you have to decide. You must uncover where your passions lay and you don't know where that is going to be immediately, but when you do find out, you must decide.
Ultimately, decision is about cutting off.
Once I had made the decision basketball was part of the journey I had to cut off all other sports and focus on being a student of the game because I wanted to get to the highest level possible."
What are the driving forces behind your success: as a player, as a coach and as an author (influencer) to the next generation of players?
Well, your success is not a solo act.
"And so, there was always someone there guiding me whether it was as simple as my parents' words of encouragement and their ability to see through my dreams.
The next were those people along my journey who were older who helped me and placed me under their wings. They taught me the game and how to play it. And even though they were outside of my peer group, they made me feel that I was a part of something bigger than myself. I think they sensed the mutual passion for the game and so I surrounded myself around those type of individuals.
Also, being a student to what I was passionate about also became a force to my success as well. I wanted to know everything I possibly could and without the internet, the ability to look up things was virtually impossible.
I had to watch games only on NBC and they were in the beginning stages of showing college basketball; in fact, even professional basketball was sporadic. So I had to go outside and do something. I had to earn my way to stay on the courts if others were playing during those times. Even if no one was around and it was me and the basketball, I used my imagination and creativity to perfect the game as I knew it to be.
Coming from my background, the natural inclination would be for me to play soccer or baseball, not basketball. I wasn't standing at 6'8" and so I've heard no's; yet, the no's were the fuel to my success as well.
Sometimes a no can be the greatest thing you hear because it creates a work ethic of gratitude to know that nothing was given to you: you had to work for it.
My success was appreciated more as a result of it."
What is the first step to making the first step?
"You must cut off all other distractions if this is truly your thing. That’s true of all life.
Again, you have to make a decision.
Then inquire and acquire all of the knowledge you can learn to your benefit.
In the game of basketball, many people want to play it, but what separates good players and great players are those who are students to learn the finer points (the details) behind it.
This fundamental mindset can be applied in life in any facet: be a student, acquire all knowledge and learn the finer points to your interests."
What have obstacles taught you?
There are a lot of obstacles along the way: unforeseen events that occur. Guaranteed, there will be a scenario to transpire whether it be a social problem, as a student-athlete maybe academic problems, an athletic situation where the ball does not go in the basket or team issues, etc.
There is always something that seems very much involved along the way.
Basketball or anything of that matter should be about bringing forth joy; however, as in basketball there must be the reminder that it is (as all things) a tool to teach you about yourself: to teach you your worth, your fortitude, your well-being and your health.
Obstacles make you better at what you do.
It's easy to score a lot when no one is guarding you, but add the stress of someone guarding you, it changes the game and changes you to be a better scorer under all types of scenarios.
There are always finer details to learn and the learning curve becomes the new obstacle.
Spending hours, doing something over and over to face an obstacle helps you uncover the essence of a thing and it is in the details that you find them.
With a disciplined work ethic, obstacles become a part of the process to being your best.
What does “embrace possibilities,” mean to you?
It means exploring. Exploring the world and taking risks.
I would not be successful if I had not taken risks and embraced possibilities out there. I take risks. You can't embrace possibilities if you do not take risks. So embrace possibilities starts with taking risks.
For some, they would be very comfortable with their respective lives and rightfully so and it works out for them. That was a choice for them.
For me, I took risks. I left the country. I left home to go play basketball somewhere else. Those risks have paid enormous dividends for my life because I've met people from different 28 countries.
I have used basketball as a tool to get my education and now be able to use that same tool to see the world and help others.
Case in point, I am in Italy right now. Basketball has brought me to this journey to help others. I am constantly suggesting to these young players to embrace possibilities in their lives.
Basketball is a young person's sport, it ends for everyone. While you have it, why not see where it takes you?
I think it’s a figure of speech what I am asking; however when I pose this question, it is beyond where basketball can take them as a professional player, but where it's takes them mentally, where it takes them physically, and what they will learn about themselves?
If you had to sum up your life’s purpose in 3 words, what would it be?
Acceptance, Excitement and Enthusiasm.
Acceptance: to accept where I am at. I had to come to an acceptance of who I am and what I have is what I am going to contribute.
Excitement: Excitement towards something and having the excitement towards what is next. I am always excited about the possibilities.
Enthusiasm: If I can show my enthusiasm, I can get through a lot of things.
Many will take these three words to signify joy and bliss.
If you are comfortable with who you are, you are excited about what you are doing and you have an enthusiasm about yourself and towards others, my God the day is great!
You feel a sense of enlightenment that way!
When passion is overflowing.
John is not stopping anytime soon to spread his light especially his canny ability to use basketball as a tool to make a difference in many ways.
In his upcoming project, John shares an in-depth journey of being adopted at birth and finding his birth family.
"With no name nor picture, I found my parents, my brothers and sisters," he discloses that will be not only beome a book but also an upcoming documentary.
"It is about the possibilities that can something happen. It's a remarkable story and I believe that this story can translate to helping many people. I feel complete now that I know where I am from, who my parents, who my brothers and who sisters are, it’s a miracle to me. The odds of that are slim to none. It's an unbelievable story on that aspect alone."
A story that is part of the many facets to John's passion for life, his purpose to impact others in a positive way and his great ability to play the game of basketball opening a world of adventure and a life of possibilities.
Connect with John and follow his amazing basketball journey!
Get a copy of his latest book: "Take Your Shot, Make Your Play."
Want John as a speaking guest for your next event? Contact Today.
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