Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Alley Oop Hoops presents
"Drive & Kick" with Rashad West
Born in Boston, MA, Rashad has over a decade of experience in various mediums including professional sports, education, business, and leadership. In college, he was nominated as a NCAA Bob Cousy Award nominee given to the nation’s candidate who emphasizes leadership, teamwork, success, and fundamentals. After graduating from Hampton University, Rashad entered Corporate Finance in Loss Mitagation at Wells Fargo, then as an MBS Analyst at Credit Suisse during summers and time off from pursuing professional basketball abroad. After finishing his professional tour overseas, he supported several start-ups and continues to do as a consultant to early stage companies, also starting his own tech company.
View the conversation summary below.
Upbringing in basketball
Rashad was born in Boston. He came to Raleigh in elementary school and went to Cathedral Middle School, then started high school at Cardinal Gibbons before transferring and finishing at Ravenscroft. As a child, Rashad ran track, played football, but there was something about basketball that stuck with him. His mom and dad both played basketball at Hampton University (where Rashad played).
Recruiting and pivot to college
Rashad was not highly touted in high school, and because there were not as many eyes on private school all, he had to scratch and claw for college looks. Most of his college looks came through AAU. Garner Road, Durham Disciples – David Noel, Ivan Jenkins, Sheldon Bailey, Vincent Greer, Raleigh’s Finest with James Mays. Only after Rashad graduated, were more eyes on private school basketball in the state with Ryan Kelley and John Wall. Rashad’s Ravenscroft team lost to Anthony Morrow’s Charlotte Latin team in the State Championship of the private schools in North Carolina. Rashad was recruited organically by Hampton University. He was more interested in Boston College and Virginia Tech, but he got hurt in his senior year of high school.
Experience at Hampton University
Rashad was running mates with Adrian Woodard from Lee County at Hampton University in the starting lineup together as freshmen. He was First-Team all MEAC and a Bob Cousy Award Nominee during his time at Hampton. Hampton had a Top 50 recruiting class his junior season and came off the bench as 6th/7th man, which was a difficult pill to swallow. Even so, his competitive nature was that he wanted to be in the NBA.
Rashad had moments where he doubted basketball. “I would go to the gym but I might not go hard that night. I might still get in some work but there is someone outworking me.” “Even when you are down, or not having a good season or good game, you go in the gym and find something to work on.” Rashad could have done more to have organized and prepared for after basketball. Hard work is what differentiates those from who do well and from those who don’t. Now, every day, Rashad looks at business – “This is a new day, what is the one thing I can do today such that by doing it, everything else is easier when necessary. I want to make my life easier by working hard.”
Preparing for after basketball
One of his teammates at Hampton University, Laurel Djoukeng, was an influence of his. Laurel would email executives while in college. Laurel exposed Rashad to other avenues – venture capital, start-up, building wealth as an investor. “As much as I loved playing the game, I knew I had to prepare for something else. You are thinking about the game, the practice, who made a play, competing every day, making the coach happy. You are getting pulled in so many different directions.” Mental health on an athlete is not always easy.
He played professionally with top competition in Spain – “When the professional basketball career ends, you have to have a plan for once your playing days are over.”
He knew that tech was the way in to venture capital. IT & business seemed a more stable, more opportunistic career path and it offered a way into the career he wanted. Rashad does not have a lot of developers to lean on. He can code in Python, C-Sharp to a degree – self-taught. He interned in corporate finance and technology and took courses at general assembly, learning from corporate executives.
About CX Labs, Inc.
CX Labs, Inc. was created to learn through play, using sports and entertainment to teach. The company has built an innovative curriculum to instill the values of sport with skills of academia. They are now up to 8 employees, including two interns, to help scale the business in adding the STEM component to sports. Rashad’s business partner is the creative and has extensive experience with preparing curriculum. Rashad has learned that “content is King and data is Queen” – Rashad has historically been focused on data, but now the focus is now on exposure and content.
“Let’s impact youth in a way that will create opportunities. You may not make millions, but you will be able to sustain and provide for your family.”
Upcoming, in Winter 2020, CX Labs, Inc. will be working with trainers & coaches leading virtual basketball camps through math. Adding STEM component to sports - teaching math through game of basketball. The difficulties in the moves you do shows the level of your skill, while also learning math along the way. There are trainers using the took in California, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
How early is too early for student athletes to begin thinking about entrepreneurship and life after basketball?
He cannot remember a time where he wasn’t thinking about basketball. “In order to be great at anything, you have to have 10,000 hours in to it, some way, form or fashion,” which is why Rashad focused on how to leverage his basketball foundation.
“If you’re old enough to think about it, read about it, you might as well start.”
Rashad never understood why all these players go broke. There is something foundationally wrong, not only with the households of people of color not knowing financial literacy, but there is also an aspect of an accountant, financial advisor, or banker running the numbers for you, a lot of times you may not understand what the financial statement is saying. “Developing those skills early,” re: financial literacy skills is key. It’s not anybody's fault for lacking financial literacy and accounting skills - the institutions and foundations fail the student-athletes by not teaching and rewarding business skills.
They are working with children in Uganda and Sierra Leone. These children do not have pen and paper, so they are trying to build the foundation of STEM. “The only true language is math. It is a universal language. Anyone will hire you. You can do finance, data science, accounting. Math is the lost language. It is the one thing everyone can speak."