Grew up in Pontypridd, South Wales with the greatest family anyone could ask for, adding to that the greatest friends possible it made for a good puberty which is rare in most people. Went to University in Plymouth, South West England and studied Creative Writing with Drama. Lived in Prague as a city tour guide enjoying life to the next level until a girl comes along and changes all previous meanings of happiness. Now living in Leamington Spa building a life.
Over the past three months, Ballers Heaven has been working tirelessly to make sure their clients have been given the best opportunities. One such talented player is 6’4 point guard Solomon Sonson, who will be applying his trade at Judge Memorial this coming August 2023.
Ballers Heaven is excited to see Solomon develop and progress through the ranks. Coach Payne said: ”We had lengthy discussions with several programs regarding Solomon and felt he could come in and be a immediate impact at Judge and get the personal development we feel he needs under Coach Sanjin.
”The program is growing from strength to strength, and the team will be together for some time developing together thus making them a formidable program.“
Solomons Mother Nkechi said: “As a parent, when you make the decision to hand over some level of responsibility for your child’s sport and academic future, you want to feel assured that the people representing your child really want the best for them Coach Roger and the team at Ballers Heaven have listened to us as a family about our wants and needs for our son.
“With his expansive connections, he has placed our son in a great school with opportunities on and off the court. From the beginning to the end of the recruitment process, Roger has demonstrated deep knowledge of basketball, as well as the visa process all financial requirements. Roger has lead with transparency and honesty, but most of all care. We couldn’t be happier and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Roger and all at Ballers Heaven.”
Solomon said: “Coach Roger and the team at Ballers Heaven recognised my talent and found the best fit for my basketball ambitions and my academic goals. Coach Roger has communicated with me every step of the way, especially while sorting out the admissions process, which can be very confusing to someone who isn’t well-versed in that field. I am very happy with the school I am going to attend and I am excited about my future and unlocking my potential.”
Eighteen months ago Kenyan hopeful Paul Magloire Ebanda was told he wouldn’t find a college in the States so just start looking for a job.
Ballers Heaven advertised that they were heading to Kenya to hold a camp in 2021, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ballers Heaven could not stick to the original dates.
In 2022, he was at his mum’s restaurant in Nairobi when someone asked the 6’7 Paul if he played basketball. He responded that he was hoping to attend an exposure camp in Kenya with a coach from the UK and an ESPN former scout.
The person in question was Coach Kent, a good friend of Coach Payne at Ballers Heaven. said he had a friend based in the UK and he would reach out to him the next day. They exchanged details and conversed the following day.
Over the next few weeks Coach Payne arranged for Paul’s parents to fly him out to the United Kingdom to live and train between 7am and 7pm, with the hopes of opening a door for him.
A prep school was looking for a power forward and in only 10 months Paul earned a college scholarship with Coach Jansen at Treasure Valley College in the North West of the United States.
It proves you just need to be in the right place at the right time and God will do the rest.
Paul said: “I’ll forever be grateful to Ballers Heaven. I came from Kenya to the UK looking for an opportunity to play basketball in the US and that opportunity wouldn’t be possible without Coach Roger and Ballers Heaven. The past year playing for Utah Peaks Prep has been an experience that I will never forget I just want to thank my teammates, and I want to thank Coach Darius I was able to learn a lot from him both on and off the court. I wanna thank Coach James for giving me an opportunity to go on and play college basketball. I thank my parents for all the sacrifices they made just for me to be here and I’m very excited for this next chapter in my life.”
Insightful, thought provoking, rewarding, and mouthwatering are just some analysis that come to mind when you look at rebuilding for a new season, but that’s exactly what Ballers Heaven are looking to provide.
Ensuring players have a deeper understanding of the game is something staff have tried to instil in players, arming them with the knowledge and awareness they need to grow not only on the court but also away from the court.
Challenging or causing someone to think, especially about things they have not thought about before. Fpr example, many youth programs kids fall into the trap of score first, but at Ballers Heaven we focus on defence first and team play. Taking a charge. Making that assist. Doing the blue collar work. Players are encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone for the betterment of their team. As Coach Payne says everyone wants to be like Mike, but Mike also played defence.
After a hard season rebuilding there is no better feeling than having your peers see your efforts and reward you by playing the right way asking if you’d be happy to play an international program to prepare their youth team for the Four Nations tournament.
Ballers Heaven played against Wales before their Four Nations campaign and gave a magnificent account of themselves, beating Wales twice to show that on any given day they can be super focused and competitive.
The game was played in a great spirit by both programs with an amazing atmosphere.
Ballers Heaven preseason will see them take on several international programs home and way including the Bahamas, which is sure to set them up for the 2023/24 season in September.
Many success stories of young Brits abroad tend to come from England or Great Britain development roots where you expect many to be given full scholarships abroad. But this isn’t such a story.
Never played for his region. Never given the opportunity to play for England. Tommy Olubisi has made his dream a reality when others passed him over.
Ballers Heaven believes that hard work beats talent every time talent isn’t willing to work hard.
Just two years ago Tommy was given no or little chance of gaining a full ride scholarship. In his first year of being in the States he won a State Championship.
In his second year, Ballers Heaven worked with other partners in the state to find him a new home at Real Salt Lake Utah, where they began to push him harder than ever before.
Tommy embraced the challenge and was given the opportunity in 2022 when he was given a part scholarship to UCC Oregon.
Not wanting to settle for a part scholarship he began the arduous journey of revisting the steps that he once followed back in the UK at Ballers Heaven when Coach Payne would have him up at the crack of dawn. Tommy realised that if he was to gain respect he’d have to be the first one in the gym and the very last out every day.
His desire and work ethic was now catching the eye of the athletic director and with his amazing speed was asked to train with the athletics team in order to keep up his base speed and become more explosive on the court.
Little did anyone know Tommy would not only train with the athletic sprint team but he would smash the school record and beat the best in the region and state.
Through his never-quit, Tommy has not only secured himself a basketball scholarship but a full ride athletic scholarship.
This kind of thing rarely happens at any level yet alone in the States.
This teaches us all a lesson that if you want something bad enough it can be obtained with a little grit and determination.
Ballers Heaven’s Warwickshire Warriors U18s National Basketball League Men’s Team was only formed 12 months ago by the Paynes.
After years of helping talented Brits realise their dreams by opening pathways to the States, they decided to form a base in the UK.
The goal was not just to compete, but to put a formidable youth programme together that would push for honours.
In one of the most highly anticipated local rivalries, Warwickshire Warriors put the league on notice early, when they handed league favourites Coventry Elite a 27-point drubbing fresh out the gate to start the season.
The run continued until they met an in-form Wolverhampton SLAM in November, who put a halt to this juggernaut of a team. Warriors lost by 11 and had some soul searching to do. The loss hurt and it would be motivation for the remainder of the season to suffer no more losses.
The Warriors stepped up the intensity and set their sights on the league championship. In their last game of the 2021-22 season, the Warriors faced their only victor, knowing a 12 point win would be their only chance to seal their fate.
It was put to bed in the final seconds of the game. Aided by stellar play at the guard positions, following a timeout with 10 seconds remaining, Aaron Atwal put his 18th and 19th points on the board to push the lead to 12 and secure the league win!
Coaches Roger and Bryce Payne said: “To see such a young group of guys gel in such a short time, throughout two years of disruptions, and win a league title in their first year is just phenomenal to us. We will be sending some of this unit to live out their dreams in the US this summer, so we will continue to develop and recruit for our 2022-23 season and look to repeat upon this success. For now… more hard work.”
Roger Payne has been appointed as M35+ Team Manager.
Based in the Midlands, Roger is a Level 3 basketball coach, but has played three different sports for Coventry and the Midlands region (Basketball, Rugby and Athletics), making it to the Junior Olympic Athletics team.
Roger coached several National League programmes in the early 2000s, and was agent to more than 20 British Basketball League players from 2009-2014.
Over the past eight years, Roger has placed more than 40 youth players in schools on scholarships in the United States of America, and continues to do that year upon year through his organisation Ballers Heaven.
In the past 12 months alone he has opened doors for kids from Barbados, Spain, Sint Maarten and the UK.
Coach Porter at Layton Christian Academy said: “Thank you!!!!! Tyrese was the MVP of the tournament and Timmie was First Team All State! They represented you well my friend!!!!”
Tournament MVP Tyrese Lacey’s mother said: “The game last night was epic! Tyrese has had an amazing year since being given the opportunity by Coach Payne at Ballers Heaven, who opened the doors for Tyrese to be able to go to the States and fulfil his dream. I seriously can not describe into words how incredibly proud I am of Tyrese getting his first State Championship and to be named MVP of the tournament. I am the proudest mom in the world. The team played so well together and I am excited for the future and to see how much more Tyrese can achieve. Congratulations LCA.”
The parents of Timmie Olubisi are making these congratulations for a second year running as he won his second State Championship and First Team All State selection in Utah.
They said: “We are super proud of you son. Your basketball has really grown from strength to strength since arriving the states its really amazing to watch how your resilience and skills have developed – most of all winning two State Championships, back-to-back. Big shout out to Coach Porter at LCA for all his support. Also, shout out to Coach Bryce and Coach Payne of Ballers Heaven for exposing you to this opportunity. We are very proud of you Timmie, keep it up son.
Have a flick through for some amazing highlights of the Ballers Heaven alumni. There is more to come, including information on upcoming scouting tours, runs and our coverage of our UK Select Team entering The Great Western Classic.
Ballers Heaven had an amazing week touring Utah to close out 2021, which saw them play against Layton Christian Academy.
The Ballers Heaven squad narrowly lost by 12 and gave a great account of themselves, also losing to RSL Academy, which is ranked 24 in the entire USA by 20.
The average age of Ballers Heaven players was just 15, so playing against a post-grad program showed great maturity and development.
The team was also invited to watch and learn from number 12-ranked BYU College powerhouse.
Head coach Roger Payne said: “What an honour and privilege to be able to learn from coach Mark Pope and his staff as we were able to witness some amazing coaching and some of tomorrow’s future star be pushed through their paces.”
Meet Ian Dangleben York, a two-way guard that takes pride in playing defence and can heat it up from behind the three-point line with regularity. He will be joining Layton Christian Academy this year.
Ian is a product of Ballers Heaven partners in Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. He is an electric player that is blessed with amazing balance and speed.
Ballers Heaven owner and Coach Roger Payne said: “Omar Beauperthuy, who is a partner and former player with Ballers Heaven, has done an amazing job setting up the Academy in Sint Maarten and is developing some hungry talented young players.”
Ian is sure to be a great asset to coach Bobby Porter as he is set to arrive at LCA the 15th August 2021.