Some of the top players in the Dream League tend to have one thing in common: they have had high school or college basketball experience. Those who don't tend to fall behind when it comes to basketball IQ, decision making, and fundamentals. They are often labeled as one dimensional, only have one "go-to-move" and their team contribution levels are low.
Meet the rare exception: Keith Durham.
The 20-year-old- who is averaging 16 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game for the Yellow Jackets- has absolutely no experience in organized basketball. But what Durham lacks in experience, he makes up for in passion.
Durham also never played traveling basketball as a kid. His first experience playing organized basketball was three months ago, when the Ultimate Hoops Dream League launched it's first season this past January in Minneapolis. Off the court, Durham works full-time with plans to go to college once he has enough money saved.
Despite his busy off-court life, Durham still finds time for his passion of basketball. To that, he credits his dad.
"My dad is in love with basketball too," says Durham. "I grew up around basketball games with him and he got me my first basketball shoes and a Fisher-Price hoop. Since then, basketball just made sense for me."
Durham's experience was gained from observing other players and teaching himself how to play. He would watch NBA games, then would head to the park or the gym and mimic the moves he saw, and practice them until they felt natural.
"Anything I would see on TV I would just go out there and do it over and over again until it felt like second nature," says Durham.
Once he got older the competition became more skilled and he wasn't able to defeat people with his speed and athleticism. He knew he needed to evolve his game.
"I learned more from people beating me. When I was younger all I had was a right-handed hook shot, I couldn't shoot, couldn't dribble, but I was still beating people. And then this kid beat me so bad in one-on-one that I knew that I couldn't play like that anymore."
Durham dug in. Every day consisted of watching NBA highlights and imitating their shots and their moves on the playground.
"I mainly learned from point guards. Allen Iverson was my favorite player, so just watching what he would do on the court, how he set up plays, how he drove to the basket was very influential on my game."
His experience in the Dream League compared to his prior experience with basketball is very different, yet beneficial.
"Since I haven't played organized basketball, UH helps me develop more of a team mentality. Having a coach is really different too, I've never had anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong and how to fix it and that really helps me out."
It's a rarity for someone to mimic NBA players' games effectively. When you combine imitation with team strategy and court awareness, that's when a player becomes special. Durham's game shows that if you have the work ethic and the passion, experience doesn't matter.