Professional basketball player and class of 2015 JMS graduate Kadeem Jack is finding creative ways to bridge his two passions. Although most professional athletes wait until their career in sports is over to pursue other endeavors, Jack seems to have found the perfect balance for both his athletic and journalistic careers to flourish simultaneously.
As a JMS student at Rutgers, Jack excelled on and off the court, receiving both academic and athletic awards while at Rutgers. Jack notes Rutgers JMS Professor Steven Miller encouraged him to take his journalistic endeavors as seriously as he took basketball. He also stuck with the journalism major, despite the fact that it wasn’t the obvious choice. “Typically athletes are steered towards majors where there are a lot of tutors, but I knew that with or without a tutor, if I wasn’t interested in what I was learning, I would probably fail.”
Jack was also the shining star of the Men’s Basketball program while at school. When Jack went undrafted after his final year at Rutgers in 2015, he didn’t give up. “I knew if the first avenue didn’t lead me to where I wanted to be, I would just have to work even harder to get there,” he says. Kadeem spent the next four months training and after several invites to practice with different NBA teams, Jack signed with the Indiana Pacers in October of 2015. Kadeem is of only 13 alum in Rutgers history to play in the NBA. “I felt like I could breath, but not all the way. To everyone it seemed as though I had made it but I knew I only had one foot in the door.”
Jack was right to tread lightly. Unfortunately, two months into his contract, and one day before final rosters were set, he was waived from the Indiana Pacers and assigned to their developmental team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Jack was later traded to the Reno Bighorns, the developmental team of the Sacramento Kings, where he would finish his first professional season of basketball. The summer after his first season, Jack signed a ten-month contract overseas in Japan with the Hitachi Sunrockers. It’s his biggest contract to date.
Jack is currently working on two projects that foster his writing abilities, too. One is a poetry book that Jack says he has been curating and editing for more than seven year. His poetry is reflects the social issues he has experienced, with themes of love, failure, and introspection. Kadeem uses writing to escape the stressful and demanding nature of his day job. “Writing to me is just like playing basketball. It’s full of passion and art. Some days are better than others, but every day is worthwhile”.
Jack is also working on is his first journalistic project, a travel blog documenting all of the places he’s travelled for his sport. Jack admits that initially the constant travel was draining and he considered it the worst part of his job. However, he eventually acknowledged how fortunate he was to have the opportunity to see so much of the world and chose to allow his travels to inspire him. “Basketball has taken me to nearly every state and five other continents … I realize that for most people seeing that much of the world at this young an age is a dream at most.” The blog, which isn’t live online yet, will focus on photojournalism and videography, with profiles of people Jack meets. “It’s a little bit of everything, I try to capture the culture, the food, the sights, but most importantly the people.”
Equipped with a Polaroid, his iPhone, and a leather-bound journal, Jack’s old soul bridges people from around the world. “I actually grew up in Trinidad, and when I moved to New York I felt like I was in an entirely new world. I remember thinking why hadn’t anyone told me this is what other people lived like. Ever since I had a passion to travel and experience other ways of life,” he says. And yet despite his rather intimidating stature (he’s 6-foot-9-inches), Jack has found that his aura draws people to him. He recalls that during his time in Japan, despite his inability to speak Japanese, people almost always approached him. In many ways, the novelty and fandom that comes with being a basketball player helps Kadeem gather content for his projects.
Not only is Jack pursuing journalism alongside his basketball career, but he is also in the process of starting a nonprofit organization targeted towards young children from underprivileged communities. Although still in its early stages of development, the organization, Life Against the Grain, focuses on guiding children towards careers and helping them find their passions. Jack says his own life inspired the organization, “Growing up I had two choices for success: play basketball or rap,” Jack says. “I want kids to know that there are so many more paths. Even though I’m a basketball player, I think what I’m doing journalistically proves to these kids just that.” The first event is scheduled for late July in New York City.