Maurice Ager was kind enough to give NCB a few minutes of his time. We spoke to Ager about his playing career at Michigan State and in the NBA, as well as his activity following his NBA career.
Farzin Vousoughian: You were fortunate to play for one of the biggest names in college basketball in Tom Izzo. What is the biggest thing you learned from him during your time at Michigan State?
Maurice Ager: Toughness, for sure. He instilled the ability in us to overcome tough times. He really helped us with mental toughness, along with physical toughness.
FV: What is a moment that sticks out to you during your time at Michigan State?
MA: Honestly, as much as I enjoyed playing basketball, I enjoyed the culture and the people at East Lansing, Michigan. I liked all of it, including the dorm surfing. I enjoyed meeting my best friend there, making music, my freshman year. It was really a great college experience overall.
FV: This November will be 10 years since you hit a big buzzer-beating shot at the end of regulation in the 2005 Maui Invitational against Gonzaga, which ended in triple overtime. I know your team fell short, but it was one of the more memorable regular season games in college basketball. What do you remember the most about that game?
MA: I remember being locked in, being in the zone. It felt good and it was a wonderful environment with a lot of energy. I just felt good, to be honest with you. That’s how I do things in my life now. Just go with the flow. What works for me is to keep myself focused, meditate and praying. It’s all hand in hand, and that was a fun moment.
FV: So many kids dream of becoming an NBA player. You officially got that dream after being drafted in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. What was it like achieving a popular dream?
MA: Simply, it was a dream come true. I know it sounds cliché, but all in all, it was a dream come true. It was something that I set my mind on at a young age and used my imagination to bring that to life. I just trusted God, had my faith. I trusted in my abilities and you have to work hard, not be afraid and go after it. It was a blessing and it changed my life.
FV: I know you’re a guard and Dirk Nowitzki is a post player, but were you ever faced with the challenge of having to go up against him in practice?
MA: [Chuckles] No. I enjoyed all of it. I don’t recall ever having to guard or check him during any practices. But I had a lot of fun and we had fun in practice. Practice to me was equivalent to playing games because I did not get to play a lot in my pro career.
FV: What did you learn the most in the NBA?
MA: Keep yourself clean and away from corruption. It is hard for young guys to avoid trouble, especially with today’s technology. You need to take care of yourself. I know how important it is. From a world’s standpoint, when you leave the NBA or pro sports, your value drops. I’m seeing how hard it is to build a brand. Even if I still played, it wouldn’t be hard to catch on. But it’s part of the journey and I enjoy it. I’ve built great relationships along the way.
FV: You began a music career following your time in the NBA. How did you get started and what was it like transitioning from the NBA to music for a living?
MA: Music was always in my blood. Music is not something I want to categorize as a career. It is something that I am—I am music. It is a part of me, part of my life. It’s what I do every single day. From the NBA to music, it was more so how to do it, market my music, create my music and learn the business aspect. Music is something I want to be a part of for the rest of my life, whether it is singing or producing and making music.
FV: You were considered for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards for your song “Far From Home.” What is it like to have a song considered for an award, knowing that people took your music serious enough to have it potentially win a big award and be recognized by a lot of people?
MA: It’s a blessing, and an honor. I believe it God helped as well. He gave me the go-ahead and to keep at it. It feels good and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. But I’d like to win one, hopefully, one day. It’s great to be a first-round draft pick and be considered for a Grammy, and potentially win one someday. You just have to keep working everyday to make it a reality.
FV: You launched Hoop School in 2014, which is a fundamentals basketball camp in the Los Angeles area. What was the drive in building Hoop School?
MA: It was just giving back. As I’ve grown and evolved in my life, I truly believe that my role is to give back. I want to use whatever skills and abilities I have and use that as a platform to give back. I love the youth and the youth loves me. My plan is to take this all over the world and keep the franchise going forever. The sky is the limit.
FV: As a former basketball player, I’d be interested in your take on LeBron James. So much is made of him. He’s heavily criticized, mainly because of his 2-4 NBA Finals record. He’s often compared to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and many say they those two are better because they have more championship wins. I’m sure you keep in touch with former teammates and other basketball players. What is the overall thought of LeBron by you and other players?
MA: We live in a world where you can’t do any right, no matter who you are. You can be the greatest individual in the world. But people will find ways to down play you, or categorize you in a place where you don’t want to be associated with. It is inevitable. In defense to LeBron James, he has lived beyond expectations of being one of the greatest players of all time. He maintains focus and has a clean image and gets better every year. He took a Cleveland team to the Finals. In all honesty, the Cavs don’t make the playoffs if LeBron isn’t on that team.
In my opinion, LeBron is the best overall talented basketball player we’ve ever seen, including Michael Jordan. LeBron is not a better player than Michael Jordan, but in terms of talent, I’d give it to LeBron. We have never seen a player like LeBron James. He’s unselfish, his skills are great, every teammate loves him. Even the vets will say that they would rather play with LeBron James over Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan.
We’re watching a guy who shows us what it means to be great. It’s difficult to be something. You can set this bar high, but not everyone will approve. You can’t satisfy everyone. For LeBron, he just has to continue to have that peaceful mindset and know you can’t satisfy people, no matter what you do.
FV: It’s funny you mention that you can’t satisfy everyone. You didn’t play when social media was huge. Today, athletes, and even celebrities, connect with fans and they deal with negative fans, especially if that player has a bad game or struggled during a big moment near the end of a game. How much has sports changed with social media?
MA: I think social media is a gift, and a curse. You can use it for the good and bad, just like anything else in life. I think social media is a great platform for guys, like myself, who have content and material and want to promote it. It can also be used to damage the minds of many, and it has. The likes, re-tweets, the favorites—I think that destroys minds in the sense to where they define how many followers, likes or re-tweets they get. I believe social media is overall hurting us. I think some people use it right to promote their work or have fun.
We all use it. I take it personal when I see people write negative things. Twenty people can tell you how wonderful you are, but it’s that one negative tweet that stays with you. That person wants you to see it. We forget sometimes that we are all human. This affects us. Anyone who says they are not effected, they are lying. I pray people can use it to our benefit, not to abuse each other.
Maurice Ager’s music work and basketball camp information can be found in the links below:
Maurice Ager on social media: