Staff photo by Joshua Curry
Brett Blizzard, a former professional basketball player, stands in his 19,000-square foot athletic center, with two full-sized basketball courts and weight facility used to train athletes from professional to amateur levels.
From the outside it’s non-descript; it’s just a former marine warehouse. Boats are no longer serviced inside or exported to customers. With Blizzard Athletics now occupying the space, young athletes are imported and the skills they learn — and earn — within are produced.
Brett Blizzard may be the most celebrated Seahawk basketball athlete. A beacon of consistency, he shot a three-point percentage that warranted him the award from the Basketball Hall of Fame as the top shooter from beyond the arc among freshmen. He would then start and play in every single basketball game for the University of North Carolina Wilmington from 1999 to 2003. Easily recalled by many Wilmingtonians, UNCW lost a heart-wrenching game at the buzzer to the University of Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Blizzard’s senior season. He went on to play overseas but had the foresight to envision what would become Blizzard Athletics.
“My friend Gene and I came up with the idea about nine years ago,” Blizzard said. When he left Italy, where he had been playing professionally, Blizzard returned to Wilmington. He had the gym floor flown in from San Diego State University, laid it down and installed some hoops in the warehouse. His vision had gained tangibility yet something lacked.
“The transition was easy, the hardest part was just teaching and not actually competing,” he said.
This year BA became the home to the semi-professional Wilmington Sea Dawgs, and Blizzard hopped on the squad to play a few games, filling a void. But the teaching and coaching has begun to take precedence, the warehouse now rife with activity.
“We have skills clinics every week for boys and girls. We have a select group that works out every morning throughout the summer. We have AAU teams working out and a JV summer league with team camps for the area high schools. There are jamborees and we do individual training on a daily basis. We’re trying to hit all facets of basketball,” Blizzard said.
He isn’t taking it all on by himself. Qwedia Wallace is the director of Girls’ Player Development. She was first a standout at Laney, then the twelfth overall leading scorer at Temple University, and she continues to play in Europe, spending her off season in Wilmington. Coach Tre Whitted, too, played at Laney, holds records at Marshall University and did a stint in the NBA D-league.
“People speak highly of them,” Blizzard said of his staff, “but they’re even better than that.”
BA has evolved from its infancy into something valuable within the community and an impassioned Blizzard sees a promising future.
“We’re trying to teach them at a younger age so they have a foundation. If you don’t have that foundation, you don’t have a chance to be successful because other kids around the country are learning it and the kids in Wilmington haven’t learned it yet,” he said. “However big we get or whatever direction we go in, I know we’re not going to lose that player-development part. That individual training that gives that foundation, that’s what we started with, and I’m never going to get away from that part of the business.”