ATAP Fundamentals: One man’s passion for basketball is changing kids’ lives
By Halei Lamb | April 29, 2020 10:04 am
by HALEI LAMB
Quan McKinney, also known as “Coach Q,” started dribbling a basketball when he was a kid and developed a serious love for the game, but he had no idea just how significant that passion would become. He grew up in the Black and Gold, played at the collegiate level, worked with an NBA manager, came home, started a family, and began coaching. Yet, his greatest accomplishment is still in the making. ATAP Fundamentals, his basketball training service, is hot on the rise with some 400 players coming to him for game-skills polishing—and he’s making them better kids in the process.
McKinney’s basketball journey starts just like everyone else’s around these parts. He and his friends often gathered at the park and played ball in the afternoons. He then moved into the rec league and moved through the ranks of middle and high school ball for the Swainsboro Tigers. As a varsity player, McKinney developed under coaching legends Leroy Jordan and Bobby Andrews from 2000 to 2003, earning an athletic scholarship to Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina as a senior. He spent four years as a Hornet, and in 2008, he graduated with a degree in recreational administration. After his collegiate years, sometime in 2009, McKinney ran into Dwight Howard’s manager and landed a job in Orlando. That, he says, helped lay the foundation for some of the coaching approaches he uses today.
“I learned a lot of life skills in Orlando. As a college athlete, you learn about discipline and leadership and gameplay, but it was different when I went to Florida because I learned about the management side of the game at the highest level,” Coach Q commented. “When I came home in 2010 and started helping Coach Jordan at the high school, I understood how important it was to keep my priorities straight. I also learned how getting up earlier helps you get a lot more done if you don’t get an early start to your day.”
Giving up his gig in Orlando was both an easy and hard decision. As a part of the managerial team there, Coach Q worked with NBA players, and that was difficult to willingly abandon. However, his wife, Patriona McKinney, had their first daughter, Savannah, and when fatherhood beckoned him home, he was happy to oblige. He took a job as a paraprofessional with Emanuel County Schools, and Coach Jordan took the youngster under his wing. The theme of his story remains the same even though his journey is still unfolding. Everything he does today is about basketball and the kids who play it.
“Coach Jordan, man, he helped me become accountable. As a player, he held me accountable. He even held me accountable as a coach. Now, I apply those same standards to my players. He, along with the late, great Coach Bobby Andrews, 100 percent get the credit for who I am as a coach today, but I can’t forget about Coach Brice Hobbs, either. I’m always learning things from him,” Coach Q said with admiration about his mentors. “In everything those guys do, winning games, making kids into better players, and developing their players into good students and upstanding members of society is what it’s all about. That’s what I’m trying to do, too.”
Coach Q tagged along with Coach Jordan for several years before the long-time SHS head coach departed Tiger Nation to lead the East Georgia State College Bobcats. Meanwhile, during the time when he was helping Coach Jordan at the high school and even after his mentor left to take over a program just across town, Coach Q began dabbling in community basketball relations, laying the foundation for ATAP Fundamentals by working with kids in the area whenever and wherever he had the chance. He made quite a name for himself doing that, so much so that when he took a brief hiatus from school ball in 2014 or 2015, Dr. Denise Warnock, principal of SHS, called him and requested he fill in Coach Andrews’ absence due to a surgery. Of course, Coach Q said yes, and he hasn’t missed a year with the Tigers since. That is not to suggest, however, ATAP Fundamentals, has taken a back seat. On the contrary, his training service is growing at an unprecedented rate.
ATAP’s story starts back in 2014, around the same time when Dr. Warnock called for help. “One day, I decided I wanted to help train kids. I’m a point guard, so ball handling is my main focus. When I was coaching—be it at the rec level, at Upward games, middle school games, even the high school level—I saw mechanical things that weren’t exactly right and I thought, ‘Somebody’s got to do something.’ I just assumed that somebody could be me just as well as it could be someone else. I went to one of my brothers/great mentors, Gary Hackett, and he helped me come up with a plan. That’s kind of how I got where I am today.”
After brainstorming with Hackett, McKinney started running his business out of the gymnasium at the rec department on Old McLeod Bridge Road. Because of scheduling conflicts with basketball season and because the gym had to close at 5 p.m. even on days when there weren’t games and practices, he came to the inevitable conclusion that he needed his own space. (However, he is quick to credit Tony Mangieri, director of Swainsboro-Emanuel County Parks & Recreation, for his generosity, accommodations, support, and help during his endeavor’s early years.)
Shortly after that mental revelation, McKinney moved into the old Walk The Line building on West Main Street. It was a humble space; its low ceilings posed a problem, and so did the flooring. In total transparency, the space was a far cry from what Coach Q needed—but he made it work for the time being. He rallied a few kids to come and train with him. Together, they ran what few drills they could, and Coach Q videoed their sessions, a tactic he still uses today.
“I knew that because I had a limited space, I had to prove to people that taking a chance on me would be worth it. I started with some sample kids, like Tyler Kelly and Charlsey Kelly; my brother, Jaylan McKinney; Gary’s son, Immanuel Hackett; and a few others. Now, I’ve got kids from Metter, Statesboro, Wadley, Louisville, Vidalia, David Emanuel Academy, Bulloch Academy—pretty much anywhere nearby you can think of, I’ve got players coming to Swainsboro. It’s a dream come true really.”
His coaching skills certainly contribute to his ability to reel in clientele, but the fact that he now has a better training spot helps as well. McKinney raised funds and looked to community members for support for his vision to expand his gym. In 2016, he moved into his current location, which is just a stone’s throw from his first. ATAP Fundamentals’ is now headquartered in the old Otasco building and it’s a beauty of a facility, but it took a little elbow grease to get it that way.
“Gary came in and helped me give that place a total 180. We gutted the place, then added concrete and plywood. The Kelly kids, their mom, Jennifer, her husband, and his brother helped with painting it. Lee Stewart helped me along the way… So many people in the community were supportive in different ways, and I don’t want to leave anyone out. All I can say is it took a community effort, and that’s why everything I do is for this community and its kids.”
Once the physical aspects of the gym were finalized, complete with equipment purchased through his own personal purse and fundraising dollars alike, Coach Q realized he needed a better name for his operation. In the earliest days, he called his training service “Coach Q’s Training Skills.” As his clientele increased and his service began to blossom, he wanted a more significant name, one that would shoulder the weight of motivating players.
“When I was brainstorming for a new name, I recalled another guy that played for AND1, Pat the Roc. He started his own training service and called it ‘Anything Is Possible,’ ‘AIP’ for short. I wanted something similar, something that would be inspiring like that but a little different, so I came up with ‘All Things Are Possible.’ That’s what ‘ATAP’ stands for.”
Today, one of the walls in his facility proudly boasts the acronym “ATAP,” and kids by the hundreds—literally—draw inspiration from it during every session. Jennifer Kelly testifies to what Coach Q is doing and the message his service’s name sends. “ATAP gave my kids a place to go to improve on their basketball fundamentals at an early age, and my son and daughter have continued to grow as players throughout middle school, high school, and college. Coach Quan has taught my kids that ‘all things are possible’ through hard work and dedication.”
Throughout his time as a coach, he has helped advance a handful of players to the next level, including Jaylan, who now plays with the South Georgia Technical College Jets; Charlsey, an EGSC Lady Bobcat; and Prencis Harden, a Kennessaw State University commit. He’s proud of helping those players move on, but McKinney generally shies away from the limelight in an effort to keep the spotlight where it should be.
“ATAP gives me a chance to give kids something I didn’t have. If I would’ve had this kind of training or motivation or access to a gym whenever, there’s no telling where I would be. I love the game of basketball, but I love to see a kid do something that will make them better humans even more. These guys and girls, they learn about life while they’re dribbling a ball, whether they know it or not. If I can help get someone to the next level, that’s great, but if they end up finishing high school, going to college, and getting a job after it’s all over, that’s just as good to me.”
Even as his list of clients continues to mount, Coach Q realizes business hasn’t always been this great. Starting ATAP, even before his training service was officially called that, was difficult in that some people thought he was solely out for monetary gain. That’s why he holds tight to the ones who have been with him from start to finish. That’s why every victory small and large, on and off the court, is so important. “There were some hard times for sure. I had to continue putting myself out there, shooting videos and posting them. I had to make people see this isn’t a money issue. I had to show people I can bring change, that I can help a kid know which type of pass to use on the court and know how important it is to handle their business in the classroom and understand all the things that make a good player and a good person. It took a while, but all my hard work is starting to pay off. I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
In the meantime, he’s going to be working toward a few specific goals. First, he wants to pour back into his wife all the support she has given him. He also wants to continue being an active father for his children, who enjoy basketball just as much as he does. He wants to continue being a great supervisor at Wincore Windows & Doors in Swainsboro from 9 to 5 as a way to repay their support for all of his basketball activities, and when he’s got time to spare, he wants to keep growing ATAP. He would also love to pick up another championship win or two with the Tigers while continuing to learn about coaching and different aspects of the game from Coach Hobbs. Long-term, Coach Q also says it would be an absolute dream to be at the helm of the Tigers’ basketball program. Until then, he is sticking to what he knows works, which is the five Ps, “proper planning prevents poor performance,” and enjoying every day in his gym making kids better.