They say no matter your age, it's never too late to follow your dreams or your passions in life. A recent documentary film that ran at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival showed how one man gained the confidence to get back into the game.
Never Too Late follows the story of Shad Blair, a 36-year-old plumber from Montana who sets off to chase his childhood dream of becoming a professional basketball player. He heads to the Las Vegas Overseas Combine to see if he has what it takes to play with the very best.
Take a look below at the trailer:
In the film, you see that Blair is being coached by personal basketball trainer Ryan Weitzel (Blackfeet). And after reading Weitzel's biography, you can tell he knows a thing or two about basketball!
From 2006 to 2009, I pursued a professional basketball career and began travelling the country and parts of Europe playing in highly competitive tournaments and leagues. In 2006, I helped lead my team to a 2nd place finish at the National Indian Athletic Association tournament in Florida. I also received All Star honors. That same year, I entered the Continental Basketball Association draft where I was invited to participate in a couple pro camps as a free agent. In 2008, I was selected to the Montana-Wyoming Men's Tribal Leaders National Team. Following in 2009, I played Second League Pro A basketball in Germany. I retired from elite competition in 2009.
And here's a cool video compilation of his basketball career, from youth to present.
So how did these two basketball players link up? An interview with the Missoulian talks about their first meeting, at a city league basketball game in Darby, MT.
“When we started playing that day, defensively I started realizing this guy we were up against is not just 6-10 and un-athletic,” Wetzel recalled. “He can move real well, play good defense, block shots. He dunked on a couple of our players and his team won.
“At the end of the game I walked up to him and said, ‘Fill me in man, where you from?’ He said Stevensville. I asked, ‘Where did you play college?’ He told me he was injured and didn’t really pursue it after that.”
Wetzel was so impressed with Blair he asked him to play on his team in the Shriner’s Shootout in Cut Bank. Competing against college-aged players from as far away as Washington and parts of Canada, the big guy continued to impress.
“On the way back from the tournament I was talking to him and he asked about my pro career,” Wetzel said. “I said, ‘It wasn’t the greatest. I just went for it.’
“Then I asked, ‘What do you think about it? Would you be interested if I introduced you to some pro scouts?’ His eyes just opened wide, then he thought I was joking. I said, ‘No I’m serious. You have an opportunity here man. Your size and ability, you can help some teams.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The film won Official Selection honors at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, which only went to a very small group of films showcased at the event. It was also nominated for the Big Sky Award but fell just short of winning. But awards aren't everything.
What do you hope people get out of seeing the documentary?
“What I want people to get out of this film is setting goals constantly. Once that goal is achieved set another. Also, stay dedicated and persistent in the process. When dealing with obstacles, work through them and maintain focus of what you ultimately want to achieve. This goes for anything (new job, education, healthy lifestyle, etc). As a Native American, the biggest thing that helps me is knowing I am representing my people everyday with my actions. I therefore hold myself accountable to being a role model to anyone I interact with daily. I want to be the bridge for both Native and non-native and our relationship. I want to travel to the reservations across the country sharing my story and guide our youth to set goals and strive to be the best they can be.”
“Lastly, when I received my name from my Pikuni elders which is Black Pipe, named after the opening of the bundle of which the sacred Black Pipe rested, my relative Darrell Kipp (RIP) said to me “My name is strong and will bring me the medicine to help change life's for the better, and give hope to many.” Now, reflecting on all I have accomplished since then, it's amazing. It's what I call ‘good medicine.'”
Great advice Ryan! For more information on Ryan please visit his page at http://ryanwetzelbasketball.com.
Last Updated on December 13, 2023 by Paul G