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Mire Chatman Featured in The Monitor

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Former UTPA, EuroCup star Mire Chatman passes on knowledge to RGV’s youth

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McALLEN — Mire Chatman retired in December 2014 as the all-time leading scorer in EuroCup basketball, one of the top professional leagues in the world. He stands No. 9 on UTRGV’s all-time career scoring list and No. 2 all-time in steals.

But Chatman is hoping the greatest impact in his basketball career is still to come.

The Garland native is spending his time these days coaching young athletes in the Rio Grande Valley. Training out of the Cavazos Sports Institute, Chatman, 37, preaches fundamentals and the subtle tricks of the trade — the jab step, the Euro step, the in-and-out dribble and more.

“My goal is to help these kids with the knowledge,??? Chatman said after a training session earlier this month. “A lot of guys around here train. But a lot of guys can’t teach kids how to think out there. You have to be somebody who’s been there to teach situations.???

After an illustrious career overseas, where he won a championship and even played as Allen Iverson’s teammate in Turkey in 2010, Chatman works to lead kids on the right path.

“He has a deep passion for kids who want to get better,??? said best friend and former then-UTPA teammate Kevin Mitchell, “and getting them better.???

PROVING HIMSELF

Chatman ended up at UTPA, after a couple of years going the junior college route, because Baylor and Texas-El Paso dropped their offers once a few class hours didn’t transfer.

“Pan Am was the one school that said, ‘Hey, we’ll wait for you,’??? Chatman said. “Other schools didn’t want to take the risk. Baylor and UTEP bailed out on me, and Pan Am stayed there.???

During his first year at UTPA, his junior season, Chatman came off the bench as Brian Merriweather started. Whenever he played, Chatman produced, averaging double-figures in scoring and 2.7 steals, good for 10th in the NCAA. But Merriweather was a program stalwart. Chatman had to wait his turn as teammates encouraged him to keep working and his chance would come.

It came the next summer when then-coach Bob Hoffman, now the head coach at Mercer, turned the offense over to Chatman.

“That’s all he needed to tell me,??? Chatman said. “I worked every day that summer and it showed. I was able to do everything that last year.???

Chatman’s senior season for the Broncs was brilliant. He led UTPA to a 21-9 record and averaged 26.2 points (third in the NCAA) and 3.6 steals in earning All-American Honorable Mention and Independent Player of the Year honors.

“On the court, Mire made life easy as a point guard,??? said Mitchell, then a junior. “He was great in transition, a great scorer. He scored all types of ways and had a knack for finishing at the basket. Considering he was No. 3 in the nation in scoring, it didn’t feel you were playing with a ball hog.???

A natural shooting guard, however, the 6-foot-2 Chatman knew his professional career was cloudy when he was placed at point guard during an NBA draft camp the following spring.

The transition was a difficult one, and Chatman went undrafted as NBA teams told him to go overseas and work as a point guard. Chatman did that, leading the EuroLeague (regarded as the second best professional basketball league behind the NBA) in assists his third season before accepting an invitation to play summer league with the Los Angeles Clippers. But he did not play until the final three games and never got a call back.

“If it was meant to be, I believe I would’ve been (in the NBA),??? Chatman said. “I saw guys in the NBA I knew I was better than. But I knew it was about who you know, who got a lucky shot and who got their chance. It’s about right place, right time. Once I got overseas and had made a name for myself at 24, 25, I told my agent I didn’t even want to think about the NBA. Don’t even sign me up for workouts or whatever. I’d already done too much and proved myself.???

PLAYING RIGHT

During a recent interview, a young boy walked up to Chatman and asked what he should focus on during tournament games the following day in Mercedes.

“Just be aggressive,??? Chatman implored. “Go to the goal, rebound. Don’t be scared to dribble. Shoot. Be confident. When you post up, ask for the ball.???

It is simplistic in nature, but that’s what works for Chatman. Simplicity and hard work.

“His work ethic is going to help me in the long run, especially for college,??? said former Mission Veterans Memorial standout Ashley Smith, who will play at McLennan Junior College next season. “The few games that I played while training with him, the game slowed down and I could handle any situation that players threw at me just from training with Mire. He has the experience.???

That know-how comes from more than a decade of professional ball, including spending the 2010 season alongside Iverson in Turkey — Chatman vividly recalls Iverson’s love of Michael Jackson’s music; Iverson would go into a Best Buy and buy out all the Michael Jackson CDs even though he owned multiple copies of each already — and winning a championship in Russia in 2007.

After Chatman retired, the international basketball web site Sportando reported in March 2015 that he was suspended two years, eligible to return in March 2017, for failing his second drug test, thus the reason behind his retirement. Chatman admits to failing a marijuana test in 2010, but not a second one.

“I wasn’t suspended,??? he said. “The Latvia team I was on was angry that I retired in the middle of the season. They were disappointed that they had put a lot of money in me and how it had cost them a championship. It was a scandal just to make controversy. I could’ve played after I left. I can play now.???

Chatman said he left Latvia, the team which he started his career overseas in 2003, after “10-12 games??? that 2014-15 season because he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the coach. He was also eager to return home to his wife, Erica, and three kids. Prior to that season, he took a year sabbatical to attend to his family.

“He’s a pretty quiet, humble guy. A family man,??? Mitchell said. “He just goes about his business. He doesn’t talk about others. He’s a respectable man.???

Chatman’s focus is helping others get their shot, whether it’s the Valley’s youth or a prospective project with his agent to help get overlooked players noticed by professional leagues.

Chatman passionately talks about teaching kids how to play man defense, something he notices is foreign to a lot of them because of Valley coaches’ preference for the zone. He mentioned coaching an eighth grader who played at Sharyland North who didn’t know what a box-out was. He talks about taking in a 5-foot-9 fourth-grade girl to coach because her mother said the Junior Vipers team she was on didn’t want to spend time to develop her.

“These kids can go anywhere and learn how to dribble and shoot,??? said Chatman, whose next step is to start forming teams to compete at local tournaments. “I want them to learn how to play right.???

dsilva@themonitor.com

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