On Monday, August 14th, Jonesboro-Hodge Elementary announced that Asante Belton would be coaching the second edition of the schools girls basketball team. It is very unusual to find a professional basketball champion coaching an elementary school girls basketball team. But then again, Asante Belton’s life journey is far from normal.
It marks the first head coaching opportunity for Belton after serving as an assistant coach for the J-H Middle School in 2021 and for JHHS last year. All this while still playing professional basketball in the National Basketball League. How can someone do all this at the same time? If you know Belton, you know that this is nothing compared to the impossible accomplishments he has already achieved. for the former Jonesboro-Hodge High School graduate.
For those not familiar with the incredible journey Belton has taken to not only achieve a dream thought impossible but gain a drive and passion to help others it all starts with love.
In his early years it was simply a love for life. Being born with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), his parents were told that he wouldn’t live past the age of five. That was nearly two decades ago.
As he grew older it was his love of basketball that gave him the resilience to keep trying to play despite having to endure numerous surgeries and advice that he shouldn’t. Never once did the 2014 JHHS graduate get to complete a full season in junior high or high school but never once did he miss a practice when he was able.
JHHS head coach Allen Tew remembers how inspiring it was to have Belton on his team.
“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,” recalled 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 from high school and 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. Despite being frail in body and short in stature, he had the spirit of a giant. Refusing to listen to the many “nay-sayers” tell him it was impossible, he kept his eye on the goal of playing professional basketball.
“I remember the day when it hit me that I wasn’t supposed to be here,” said Belton. “Not just to be in the position of being able to play ball but be alive. It made me more passionate about pursuing my goal of playing professionally.”
For three long and tedious years Belton continued to work, never losing sight of his dream. In 2017 he earned a spot on the Alexandria Armor of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He played in two games and didn’t score a point but he had achieved his goal.
Instead of being satisfied he set his sights higher. Now he didn’t want to just be on a professional team, he wanted to be a major contributor. Two more years of hard work led him to becoming the backup point guard for the Baton Rouge Timberwolves of the United Basketball Association.
In 2020 and now packing a solid 180 pounds he joined the Baytown Bobcats of the NBL where it all finally came together. Belton moved into the starting lineup and started delivering gigantic numbers, including a 36 point career high effort in the playoffs.
Through the journey of becoming an impossible star another love and passion developed. One that has become the focal point of his life today.
I know that God has given me an opportunity to achieve things that is rare for someone that was born with my condition,” said Belton. “It made me want to be an inspiration to others and I look for opportunities to speak to others.”
He now has an rapt audience of young children who are in their formidable years, a place where he feels he can do the most good.
“I am blessed and very thankful for what God has done and grateful for the opportunity to coach and be a mentor to our younger generation,” said Belton. “My goal is to not only train and coach but mentor and be there for them on and off the court. I want to inspire them to change their culture if needed and teach these kids you don’t have to be the complete package to complete the package.”