Former NBA star pays it forward at Drive Nation

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Jermaine O’Neal mentors aspiring athletes at Drive Nation. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

Fans of the National Basketball Association likely remember Jermaine O’Neal from his 18-year career and six All-Star appearances. Many may not know he was raised by a single mother who couldn’t afford to send him to the best camps.

However, the help he received from people– like high school coach George Glymph and fellow NBA stars Xavier McDaniel, Alex English and Tyrone Corbin– inspired him to give similar help to others, after his career ended in 2014.

Looking for the right place, his wife Mesha and their two children settled in Southlake in 2012; and, in 2017, he spent $12 million of his own money to build and open Drive Nation at the south end of DFW International Airport.

The 90,000-square-foot facility features an indoor soccer field, plus multiple basketball and volleyball courts, weight room and other amenities aimed at helping youth improve their skills with the goal of preparing them to attend college. In just three years, it has produced nearly 50 Division I scholarship athletes.

The idea started when O’Neal wanted a place where daughter Asjia, now a redshirt sophomore at the University of Texas, could learn more about volleyball and other sports under one roof. O’Neal, 41, chose DFW because Texas has no state income tax, Southlake has an excellent school system and he’s a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys.

 “I did some research on the sports facilities around here and it got me thinking about what was important for the athlete, what was important for the communities and try to build a business to impact the communities,” said O’Neal, whose son Jermaine, Jr. is in seventh grade.

“This idea of building a sports facility– and helping these kids accomplish their dream they have been thinking about for years– is important and was important to me personally and the things I went through.”

Drive Nation offers camps, clinics and leagues for adults and youth in basketball, football, soccer and volleyball. It sponsors club teams in girls and boys basketball and girls volleyball. Its boys club basketball team is one of 42 in the nation involved in the Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League.

Drive Nation focuses on building a professional atmosphere for amateur athletics. The Drive Nation Foundation offers scholarships to help underprivileged youth to participate in the elite programs. About 600,000 people have visited in each of its first three years.

Drive Nation is located at 2550 Rental Car Dr., Irving, TX 75261. Call 972-456-1200 or visit www.drivenationsports.com.

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