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Giving hoop dreams one last chance
Former Hudson County greats Okerulu, Beatty combine forces to provide hope
by Jim Hague
Jul 22, 2018 | 2269 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOOP DREAMS – From left, Pure Passion Sports president Sean Mills, Miles Beatty of Guttenberg and West New York and former Hudson Catholic great Darlington Okerulu come together before the Pure Passion Sports tryout.
HOOP DREAMS – From left, Pure Passion Sports president Sean Mills, Miles Beatty of Guttenberg and West New York and former Hudson Catholic great Darlington Okerulu come together before the Pure Passion Sports tryout.
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Miles Beatty is 30 years old now. The Guttenberg native and current West New York resident is far removed from his days as a basketball legend at Anna L. Klein School, where he was destined for stardom.

Beatty went from Klein School to St. Anthony, where he continued to shine. He earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors in 2006 and headed off to George Washington University on a scholarship.

But from there, Beatty’s basketball life took a tumble. He left GW and headed for Blinn Junior College in Texas, the same school that once produced Carolina Panthers All-Pro quarterback Cam Newton. Beatty then went to the University of Montevallo, an NCAA Division II school in Alabama.

Beatty chased his professional basketball dreams to places like Australia, but after a year Down Under, Beatty came home to Guttenberg and was ready to resume the rest of his life.

“Basketball is my life,” Beatty said. “I believed it was healthy to stay in my environment and that’s basketball. I was uncomfortable not playing basketball. When I came home and stopped playing, I really didn’t know how to exist.”

Beatty eventually got a job working in the dietary department of Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen.

“My Dad worked there, so I was able to get a job there,” Beatty said.

But Beatty was convinced he could still play the game he loves, even at an advanced age.

“I began to read the Bible,” Beatty said. “I found comfort, joy and peace with the Bible.”

Beatty also found a place to play basketball at a high level, at a place called the Times Square Church, located in – where else? –Times Square in Manhattan.

At the Times Square Church league, a highly competitive league with many top players, Beatty was the leading scorer, averaging more than 30 points per game.

“It gave me a good opportunity to play,” Beatty said. “And I go to play there every day.”

At that time, Beatty was introduced to Sean Mills, a former standout player at the University of Bridgeport (where he played with former St. Anthony standout Billy Bush), who owns a Masters’ degree in counseling. He first got a job working for Essex County as welfare department supervisor, but still found himself drawn to the sport of basketball.

“I love basketball and I’m still playing,” said the 38-year-old Mills, who is in peak physical condition. “I had an opportunity to play professional basketball overseas, but injuries stopped that. But I stayed around the game as a coach and I love it.”

Mills formed his own agency called Pure Passion Sports, geared toward aiding former college basketball players who aspire to get an opportunity to play professionally in Europe, South America, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

“No other program was willing to help these players,” said Mills. “I still have a lot of contacts with organizations and teams overseas. Within the next two months, we will have a team that will go to the Dominican Republic to play.”

And with that, Beatty found himself at an invitation-only tryout camp in Nutley recently with 25 other aspiring players.

“I know I can play anywhere,” Beatty said. “I played against Stephen Curry [when the famed former NBA MVP was at Davidson] in college. I know I can do it.”

Mind you, these players that Mills and Pure Passion are helping have very little chance of playing in the NBA.

But there are plenty of opportunities to play pro ball elsewhere – and that’s where Mills and Pure Passion Sports come in.

“We have guys who came here from New York, from Philly, from Connecticut,” Mills said. “They’re all hoping to hook on with a pro team.”

Mills was asked if he thought there were enough talented players among his workout to play pro ball.

“Absolutely,” Mills said. “I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t think so.”

Unlike some pro workouts, where a hefty registration fee is required, Mills didn’t ask for a dime.

“It’s all on us,” Mills said. “It’s all just because I have a love of the game. My love of the game is that profound.”

Mills said that his organization has been growing by word of mouth and limited media.

“I’ve had a lot of college coaches reach out to me,” Mills said. “They know what I stand for. I’m just an honest guy trying to help these players out.”

One of the people who was touched by Mills’ plight was Darlington Okerulu, who was a basketball standout at Hudson Catholic and later St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Okerulu earned Hudson Reporter All-Area First Team honors in 2002.

Okerulu, who currently works full-time as a financial advisor for Citibank in New York, understands the saga of a player trying to secure a professional contract overseas because simply he couldn’t have one.

“I wasn’t even a citizen,” said Okerulu, who was originally from Nigeria and came to the United States as a youngster. “Because of that, my opportunities were limited. They didn’t have programs like this for me, so I wanted to get involved. When Sean asked me to come on board, I was more than willing to help. We’ve built a relationship over the last few months. I saw the message about helping these guys. It was my chance to give back.”

Okerulu is the father of newborn twins, Charles and Bianca, just two months old, so he has his hands full, yet volunteers his time coaching along with Mills.

“It’s just a matter of getting the word out,” said Okerulu, who is 34 years old. “The hardest thing for me was holding on to a dream [of playing professionally] and not getting that opportunity.”

So here they were, two former Hudson County high school basketball legends, both in their 30s, both trying to hold on to a dream – Beatty as a player, Okerulu now as a coach.

Okerulu was proud to say that two of the players who attended the Pure Passion Sports tryout last month signed with a professional team in Canada, but Beatty was not one of them.

Beatty will continue to try and will attend more of the workout sessions with Mills and Okerulu in the future. He will not give up on his dream.

“He has that talent,” Okerulu said of Beatty. “He wants that opportunity. I have to give him credit. He’s trying. And he can definitely play.”

Beatty lives with his long-time girlfriend Maria Stasnar in West New York.

“We’ve known each other since I was 12,” Beatty said. “She has kept me strong. She records everything I do.”

And Maria will record everything Miles does until he gets another shot at pro basketball.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.

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