Andre Oupoh Hardwork 24-7 Training
It’s a nice spring afternoon and the kids started trickling into the small East Harlem gym minutes before the 5 PM workout. At half-court stands a husky intimidating figure, draped in the latest KD apparel. For many it’s the first time training with him, his days always busy; he works hard, twenty-four seven.
Andre Oupoh was born in West Africa, Ivory Coast to be exact. As a kid growing up, Oupoh played soccer like everyone else. Playing a sport professionally is a dream many of us have as children but for Oupoh, sport was his way of surviving. At 11, Oupoh was homeless and used soccer as his way to secure a meal everyday. Oupoh put himself through school and by the time he was a teenager, he was in the states on a soccer scholarship at John Dickenson HS in Delaware.
“GO, curl, knock it down. Thank You.”
It’s midway through the session and the group of kids are getting tired. Their ages vary, some are in middle school and the younger ones are third graders. No one gets special treatment, parents pay close attention on the sideline hanging on to every word. “Dre, has that affect on people, when he talks people really listen,” says Aris Martin, a trainer in his own right and founder of the Taino Chiefs program.
Oupoh was in 10th grade when a good friend convinced him to tryout for the high school basketball team. He had no idea how to play but figured he would go anyway. During the scrimmage Oupoh was on a fast-break and a teammate lobbed him the ball near the rim, Oupoh’s soccer instincts kicked in and he tried to head the ball in the basket. The scrimmage came to a halt, the players laughed as Coach Reeler explained that he should grab the ball and put it in next time. “That alley-oop got me on the team,” Oupoh recalls. “Everyone was impressed by how high I jumped.”
The first year on varsity went by fast, as Oupoh was just learning the game but by senior year colleges were calling, a lot. Rhode Island was the first to offer soon to be followed by Fresno State. Many scouts called Oupoh a “Big East” type of guard but his dad’s ties to Fresno State all but sealed the deal, literally. Shortly after they offered, a deal had been made and a NCAA violation had occurred. Rather than attend another school with that stigma, Oupoh choose to go the JUCO route and starred at Cecil Community College.
“We were the Duke of JUCO’s, we were loaded.” Oupoh said. “We did everything but win a national championship.” Heavily recruited out of Cecil, Oupoh choose to further his education at Texas State over the likes of Oregon, Rhode Island and UMass. Things didn’t go as smoothly as planned and before you knew it, Oupoh quit the team.
“Keep going, don’t stop. Two more, good, one more, good.”
The training session is coming to an end. The kids are exhausted, Oupoh takes the basketball from one and shoots a long jump shot. “You see that?!, I’m not tired,” he says with a smile.
Oupoh did eventually rejoin the team at Texas State. He played just 23 games during his tenure, before foregoing his senior year and turning pro. However, it was a connection he made with a prospective University of Texas student that changed everything.
Craig Winder, Oupoh’s teammate at Cecil Community College, had signed with Texas and the two spent a ton of time together in Austin. One weekend Winder happened to be hosting three high school recruits, among them a tall lanky kid named Kevin Durant. Winder called Oupoh to help him out being that Oupoh had all the connections in town. The trio hit it off and shortly after Durant signed with the Longhorns.
“You know who your friends are during dark times.” Oupoh says. “All I wear is Nike’s but I don’t care if Kevin was signed to DADA, I’ll be wearing that because he showed me love when I was down.” Oupoh speaking about the time he spent a year in prison after he left Texas State. Durant often reached out and even made Oupoh’s visiting list although he never did get to see him behind bars.
Oupoh eventually did turn things around and got the opportunity to play basketball professionally. He played overseas in Qatar, Egypt and France in his first year and did have some success. But soon he faced another roadblock. The consecutive deaths of his father, brother and grandfather left him with little desire to leave his family back home, particularly his now lonely mother.
“I give my life story in these workouts. Everything is a change of pace; you need to know when to slow down, when to speed up.” He tells the group. “ Being mentally tough, being accountable, I implement it in my workouts.” The kids nod quietly. Parents come and shake his hand, vowing to be back for the next session. Before leaving all the kids give him dap, “see you next time ‘Dre.”
What started out as a hobby for Oupoh, training college players in Texas is now a full-time job that takes him all over the country. He created his company “Hardwork24-7 Training” and attacks training with the same will and grit that he once used as a pro athlete. Currently, his summer schedule consists of: Andre Drummond Camp, Nate Robinson Camp, a five-day trip to Arkansas every month and one-on-one sessions with all his other clients who come home for the summer from overseas.
Aside from his strong ties with Nike, Oupoh lists of endorsements includes: the beverage R*O*A*R*, apparel lines Buckets-The Brand and Its Buckets, Solepack and Prime Society backpacks and he also just became an ambassador for Shot Tracker. Oupoh hopes to capture his busy summer on his documentary which he’s currently filming.
“I wasn’t living right but my blessings doubled-up.” Oupoh says. “The gym is my Church and I’m the pastor.”