After retiring from his 12-year NBA career in 2008, Jeff McInnis came home to Charlotte to train teenagers. Some of the kids he worked with asked if he would put together a travel team.
Everybody wanted him to call the team the “Jeff McInnis All-Stars,” but McInnis — a former all-ACC point guard under Dean Smith at North Carolina — didn’t want his name on it. So he picked Team Charlotte.
“It was rough (starting out),” said McInnis, 44, who will host his annual JMAC Showcase travel ball event in the Charlotte-area this weekend. “We were getting beat up.”
McInnis, though, was used to hard work.
He wasn’t a big name when he led West Charlotte to an improbable state high school championship when he was a sophomore in 1991. He finished his high school career at national powerhouse Oak Hill (Va.) Academy and earned a scholarship to UNC. But he was a supporting actor to stars like Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace.
McInnis was drafted in the second round by the Denver Nuggets in 1996. But in parts of his first five pro seasons, he had to fight his way back from Greece and the CBA to get back to the NBA, where he would play in Cleveland with LeBron James.
So McInnis didn’t mind fighting.
He would take kids on Team Charlotte that weren’t always the biggest “name” players and he would develop them. He called them “Team No Name,” and put a chip on their shoulders, similar to the one he always carried.
Team Charlotte was born in 2010. Three years after that, Team No Name won a big travel tournament in Houston, a win that helped land McInnis a shoe deal with Under Armour. In 2015, Team Charlotte won the Under Armour championship.
McInnis, whose team didn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-6, was a big underdog in the final. After the win, McInnis was named Under Armour 17U national coach of the year. He was also named IndiHoops national coach of the year and was selected to coach in Under Armour’s nationally televised Elite 24 all-star game in New York.
“It’s just coaching and players,” McInnis said. “I guess we have good players, but I have a good coaching staff...We have good guys around the kids that are for the kids.”
One of the kids on McInnis’ current 17U team is North Meck High star Tristan Maxwell. Maxwell’s father is former Houston Rocket and NBA champion Vernon Maxwell. Maxwell said he’s been thoroughly impressed with McInnis’ coaching style.
“I love him,” Maxwell said. “He’s got so much intensity and so much passion and he gets the kids ready for the next level. What I’m surprised about is that he doesn’t have a job in college. He’s such a good mind for the game of basketball. He understands everything.”
National recruiting analyst Rick Lewis of Phenom Hoop Report said McInnis’ style and intensity have turned Team Charlotte into a national brand in the travel-basketball circles.
“He’s embellished that proverbial chip on his shoulder and his players’ shoulders to where they go out and play with such purpose and passion,” Lewis said. “He’s developed it into one of the more consistent shoe company teams in North Carolina. When you watch his teams, you know they will play hard, play defense and play together. He’s one of the most passionate coaches on the sideline. Off the court, he’s one of the most mild and humble guys out there.
“But I think the best thing is he’s taking kids and producing D1 prospects year-after-year now, and some of these kids would’ve flown under the radar if it hadn’t been for him.”
McInnis said he wants to keep his hands in youth basketball, and plans for Team Charlotte to keep going for a long time.
“We just want to keep growing, keep putting (kids) in college and hopefully get some pros,” McInnis said. “I enjoy doing this, and I love seeing the kids get a chance to go to school for free.”
Players/Teams To Watch at JMAC Showcase
The annual JMAC Showcase travel basketball tournament is Saturday and Sunday at Fort Mill’s Comenius School and Nation Ford High along with York Comprehensive. A full event schedule is at phenomhoopreport.com
CP3 2022 (ranked No. 1 nationally at 15U): Kheni Briggs (6-3 freshman W, Kannapolis Brown); DeAnte Green (6-9 freshman, Ardren Christ School)
DTA Elite: Omarion Bodrick (6-6 sophomore, Independence; Trevon Williams (6-1 junior, Independence)
Greensboro Warriors: Ahmil Flowers (6-4 junior, Greensboro Grimsley)
Team Charlotte 2022: Jeremy Gregory (6-7 freshman, Carmel Christian); Jordan Crawford (5-11 freshman, North Mecklenburg)
Team Charlotte 2021: Jalen Hood-Schifino (6-4 freshman, Northside Christian); Brice Alfino (6-5 sophomore, Davidson Day)
Team Charlotte 2020: Tristan Maxwell (6-2 junior, North Mecklenburg); Trayden Williams (6-0 junior, North Mecklenburg)
Team United 2021: RJ Noord (6-3 sophomore, Greenforest, Ga., Christian); RJ Felton (6-3 sophomore, Aiken SC)
Team United 2022: Daniel Sanford (6-6 freshman, Vance); Perry Smith Jr. (6-7 freshman Greenville Legacy Early College); Anthony Breland (6-1 freshman, Lincoln Charter)