Meet Robert Swain
Later this month, Georgia’s Mr Basketball Alterique Gilbert will be participating in the McDonald’s All-American game. Among all those in attendance that night will be fellow Georgian Robert Swain. It’s safe to say neither will be in United Center on that soon to be glorious night without each other; two basketball journies turned into one dream.
Who is this Robert Swain? The name should sound familiar. A three-time National AAU champ with the Atlanta Celtics, Swain averaged 29 points, eight rebounds and five assists during his senior year at Tri-Cities High School. Regarded as a Top 50 recruit, Swain committed to UConn and rounded out a recruiting class that included McDonald’s All-Americans Taliek Brown and Scott Hazelton, Caron Butler and Johnnie Selvie. The following year with the additions of Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, UConn won the Big East Championship and made it to the Elite Eight. However, minutes were scarce for Swain in Storrs and he transferred to the College of Charleston. He played two season for the Cougars before graduating and then finally playing professionally in Europe.
Enter Swain Basketball Academy
During his time back home from overseas Swain would hold free training sessions for the kids in the community. These sessions would fill up with about 70 to 80 kids. But it wasn’t until Swain hit rock bottom that he realized his ability to motivate and help others get better as a real gift from above. Swain got himself into some legal issues and had to serve two years in the federal penitentary. Having felt like he lost it all, it was basketball and his relationships developed through the game that kept him sane. His former head coach Jim Calhoun was the recipient of many collect calls and answered them every time. To keep himself occupied, Swain began to train prisoners and came up with the business plan for “Swain Basketball Academy” during a stint in solitary confinement. The company’s current slogan, “Own Your Moment,” came from behind those walls.
Upon his release Swain got to work but things were slow. During his first six months he only had three kids in the gym, a steep drop from the 80 he was accustomed to. The problem was not only weren’t the classes free anymore but now he had the cloud of a convicted criminal over his head.
“If I can get him, he’ll be a McDonald’s All-American and Georgia Player of the Year”
Swain remembers saying this to his uncle after seeing Alterique Gilbert play for the first time. He also remembers his uncle laughing and looking at him like he was “tripping”. The two would meet a short time after and an invitation to train was given and accepted. But before the two got to work there was somewhere Swain had to take Gilbert. “I was there, don’t let that be you.” Swain told Gilbert while parked outside of the federal penitentiary where he spent two years of his life.
After the first session Swain recalls Gilbert telling him, “I got better today” and “I thought was good.” The two worked tirelessly together, both with something to prove and somewhere to go, the United Center.