Rashad Phillips returns to teach basketball, life skills

By: Jon Malavolti | Online Only | Published August 17, 2011

 Rashad Phillips, second from right, a Ferndale High graduate and former University of Detroit Mercy star, now runs Skills Unlimited in Rochester Hills. Pictured, Phillips speaks with players during a game, including, from left standing, Hunter 
Schattler, Alec Johnson and Ben Reiter.

Rashad Phillips, second from right, a Ferndale High graduate and former University of Detroit Mercy star, now runs Skills Unlimited in Rochester Hills. Pictured, Phillips speaks with players during a game, including, from left standing, Hunter Schattler, Alec Johnson and Ben Reiter.

Photo by Andrew Potter

Rashad Philips heard it all the time growing up.

The haters, the doubters and the critics.

“I was the kid that everyone said, ‘He won’t make it,’” Philips said.

At less than 5-feet-tall entering high school, they told him he’d never play prep ball.

He made the varsity team as a freshman at Ferndale High.

But that didn’t silence them.

Next, they said he’d never play college basketball. Last November, his jersey was retired at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he played in the late 1990s. He was a three-year starter for the Titans, and his 2,319 points scored is just one of several career records he holds at the school.

Still, that didn’t stop the negativity.

They told him he wouldn’t play professional ball. Yet he proved them wrong once again, playing briefly in the NBA Summer League while also enjoying a decorated career in several countries overseas.

“I was always the person that had to set his goals higher because nobody believed in me — that was me,” Phillips said.

After successfully silencing his critics, Phillips has set out to help others achieve their goals with his Skills Unlimited training and mentoring program.

“Every kid that walks through my door, I see myself in each kid,” he said. “Each kid has their battle. I feel that it’s my duty to help each kid overcome their obstacles.

“When I got back home, I kind of wanted to give back to everything that I have worked hard for and benefited from.”

Phillips has been running Skills Unlimited for a year now at the First Church of Nazarene in Rochester Hills, the same city he resides in these days. It’s here that he helps hone the basketball skills of and teaches life lessons to as many kids as he can.

“On the outside, you see we offer training,” he said. “Helping kids develop into productive athletes and reach their goals, whatever that goal may be.

“But on the inside, once you sign up to it, it becomes a whole other world of mentoring, team building and proving a great family atmosphere. On the outside, it looks like just individual training, but once you get inside and become a family member of Skills Unlimited, then you become family.”

Phillips said he didn’t know where to start at first, but after always wanting to own his own business as a kid, he began leaning toward training. Plus, this way, he could reach as many kids as possible.

“I didn’t want to coach for one reason alone at this time, because you’re only affiliated to that specific bunch of kids when you coach,” he said. “It was kind of, on my end, I felt it was a selfish act, because I have so much stuff to teach and so much to give. I didn’t want to be selfish like that with just 15 kids.

“There’s thousands of kids out there that I think need that tutelage, that certain training, and I wouldn’t be able to provide that if I was just a coach for one team.”

Growing up on the east side of Detroit, Phillips’ father did something similar in providing a “safe haven” for kids. He provided a gym where they could “go to and bond and learn the game of basketball and get mentored.”

“I kind of took a page out of my father’s book, not knowing that I did, because it was just always in me,” Phillips said. “I come from that program, so I mixed in my dad’s program and I kind of put my own training into it. I played basketball and was successful at it, so it was like I had something more to give.

“I’m not doing anything but reinventing the wheel my dad started 33 years ago.”

Originally, Phillips figured by now he’d be a recently retired NBA star, living comfortably in luxury.

“I felt I would be in the NBA for 10 years. I was going to sign a huge contract for 80 million dollars and ride off into the sunset,” he said. “Boy was I wrong. But this has turned out to be exactly what I wanted my whole life, and I never knew.”

He said his parents, especially his mother, preached to him about being unselfish and sharing his gifts.

Hunter Schattler, 10, of Rochester Hills, is one of the many local youths Philips has shared with in the first year of Skills Unlimited. Schattler said he’s gone from being a “recreational” player to making an AAU team after six months of training with Phillips. And it’s not just the basketball skills he’s thankful for.

“He has taught me the importance of being a good person on and off the court, to respect myself as well as others, and to always believe in myself — no matter how tough it may get,” Schattler said. “He shows such an interest in everything I do. I never want to let him down, on or off the court.”

Schattler’s mother, Patty, called the lessons “priceless.”

“I love the positive re-enforcement he displays with all the kids he trains,” she said. “My son is more independent, responsible and has developed a confidence level in his game. Rashad takes the time to get to know each and every kid that he trains and understands how to bring out the best in each. His interest extends beyond the basketball court. He has been known to attend other activities that the kids participate in.”

And the kids aren’t the only ones taking something away from each training session.

“I learn something new every day,” Phillips said. “These kids teach me more than I teach them.

“That’s the reason why Skills Unlimited is continually growing by the second, because everybody under that tree, we teach each other.”

Phillips said that he would love to one day franchise Skills Unlimited, expanding his teachings across the country.

“Physically, I can’t get to every kid in the world, but if I can get my program and train other trainers to train and think like me, and have that positive impact on every kid, that’s what I want Skills Unlimited to do.

“I just want every kid that comes through Skills Unlimited to know that they can reach any goal they set forth in front of them, whether it’s making their fifth-grade team, going to college, playing professional basketball, being a doctor, a lawyer, a great person, a good student, whatever that goal is, Skills Unlimited will do their best to help that particular student reach that goal.”

Skills Unlimited offers individual and small group training sessions for players age 5 and up. For prices and more information, visit www.rpskillsunlimited.com or call (248) 430-8178.