Former Jonesboro-Hodge High School graduate Asante Belton has been named pre-season Most Valuable Player of the National Basketball League – United States division. In last season’s action Belton scored 36 points for the Baytown Bobcats in the playoffs leading to his preseason selection as 1st team ALL-NBL and MVP.
“I am hoping that this is the year I get called up to go overseas,” says Belton. “I want to leave the United State with a championship.”
For Belton to be playing at all, much less being considered as a possible Most Valuable Player of a league designed to prepare athletes for professional basketball is incredible.
“I was born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD),” reflects Belton. “The doctors told my parents I wouldn’t the age of five.”
His journey is the perfect example of what can be achieved simply by never giving up on your dream. From the get go, Belton had to overcome one adversity after another. Due to the numerous doctor’s visit’s, and surgeries Belton never got the opportunity to play a complete season in junior high or high school. Yet each year whenever he was able he would be practicing with the team, doing what he could, when he could.
“What I remember about Asante is that he never really got the chance to play a full year due to his condition but whenever he was healthy enough he would be there for practice,” said JHHS head coach Allen Tew. “Even though he knew that he wasn’t going to play he would still come to practice and give it all he had.”
After graduating high school in 2014 Belton continued to work hard on his dream of playing basketball professionally. Through a regiment of medicines and a monitored diet Belton stared adding weight to his 5’7″ frame. The stronger he got, the more encouraged he became and the harder he worked.
“I remember the day that I knew I had been given an opportunity that others didn’t have,” said Belton. “I woke up and realized that I wasn’t supposed to be here. Not just playing ball but be alive. It made me more passionate about pursuing my goal of playing professionally. I also knew that I could be an inspiration to others as well and started to look for opportunities to speak to others.”
Belton earned a spot on the Alexandria Armor of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 2017-18. He played in two games and didn’t score a point. In 2019 he became a member of the he Baton Rouge Timberwolves of the United Basketball Association (UBA) as a backup point guard. All the while he was growing stronger inside and out.
In 2020 and now packing a solid 180 pounds on his diminutive frame he joined the Baytown Bobcats of the NBL-US where it all finally came together. Belton moved into the starting lineup and since the small point guard has been delivering gigantic numbers, including his 36 point career high effort in the 2020 playoffs.
“It is kind of hard to believe that after all the surgeries and setbacks when I was young that here I am at the age of 19, healthy as an ox and not only making a living doing what I love, but being considered one of the best in the league at it” said Belton.
That league that he is now a premier player of is the National Basketball League which is a unique American based Exposure League. It is designed to bridge the gap between USA, Asia, Caribbean, African and European basketball, in order to provide opportunities for professional players to showcase their talent on a global platform. The 2021 season will feature 18 teams in seven states including Belton’s Baytown squad.
“The Bobcats are built for my style of play,” said Belton. “I am looking to finish what I started last year and get our team a championship and hopefully a shot at playing in a professional European league next year. “
More than anything Belton hopes his journey inspires others who have it hard coming up or have adversities that they have to overcome.
“My message is DON’T GIVE UP! I don’t care if you don’t have money, support or even good health, as long as you don’t give up on your dream and keep your faith, you will succeed.”
I am living testimony that if you want it bad enough you can overcome anything. I always felt I had a dark cloud over me but now I am starting to see the sun.”
Here’s hoping that not only does Belton get to see sunny days ahead but also the bright lights of professional basketball arenas all over the globe.
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