Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Interviews

From Getting Cut in High School to Playing Pro Basketball with Eugene Campbell III

“You are either going to complain or use it to work harder, and I did just that.”

Illustration of Eugene Campbell III taking a jump shot in a college basketball game

Eugene Campbell III is a professional basketball player who has played in Moldova, Armenia, Portugal, Bosnia, and Tunisia.

But if it weren’t for his dedication and relentless self-belief, he wouldn’t be here.

Campbell was cut from his high school basketball team, virtually unrecruited, and fought through adversity every step of the way.

We had the chance to speak with Eugene about his unique path, advice for younger athletes, his nonprofit organization, and more.

When are your earliest memories of basketball? 

I grew up a Boston Celtics fan and Paul Pierce was and is still my favorite player of all time. His competitiveness and willingness to win at all costs and give the game everything he had was something I emulated.

Paul Pierce wasn’t the most athletic, and he wasn’t the quickest player with crazy ball handling, but he was very effective at scoring the ball at his pace and being a very solid defender. Although I’m not 6’7” a lot of the things I do with my style of play emulate him in a point guard way.

What was high school basketball like for you? I understand you were a bit of a late bloomer.

I played for East Brunswick Tech which is the gold division (the worst division of high school basketball in New Jersey). I was about 5’1” in my freshman year of high school and I was cut from my team because of politics and my size. I was very skinny as well but I had something a lot of those people didn’t have, and that’s heart and durability.

I looked at my future and outlasted everyone from high school all the way to college because I am literally the only person from high school and college who plays professionally currently.

There is only one other person who made it overseas and he was my college roommate. He has the same mentality as me. Shoutout to my brother Ruben Acosta.

Once I was cut, I worked very hard to make the team the following year. And once I got the chance to play, I got better each year and I never looked back.

Eugene Campbell basketball quote that reads: "Once I was cut, I worked very hard to make the team the following year. And once I got the chance to play, I got better each year and I never looked back."

Walk me through your recruiting process. How was your experience getting in front of college coaches?

I had zero, I repeat zero offers out of high school because of how low my division was in high school.

Fun fact about me: I never played AAU a day in my life. My father never put me in an AAU program or directed me to trainers, which sucked, but I found a way to make it work. I didn’t work with a trainer until after college, which is crazy.

When it was time for me to apply for colleges, the only college I got accepted into was Middlesex. So I knew I had to walk on as a player and fight for a roster spot. That was a challenge, but I worked my tail off all summer so I was prepared when tryouts came.

I made the team my freshman year, having a role as the 6th man off the bench to score the ball, sort of like Jamal Crawford. The person who started over me was a very good player – actually the best player on the team – and I learned a lot from him to help me for the next season.

Sophomore year was my time to shine and I became a full-time starter with the expectation of being the 3 option. But I became the first option and led the team in scoring, shooting 45% from the field and 40% from three, becoming a second-team all-conference player for Region 19.

How did you develop as a player in college? And what led to you choosing to transfer to a Division III school despite a D2 offer?

I developed very well in college despite still being a late bloomer. I started my college career at 5’10” then in my second year, I was exactly 6’0” and still very slim.

After having a good year at Middlesex, I was offered one Division II school but it wasn’t a full scholarship and my parents couldn’t afford the rest of the tuition. So I decided to go to NJCU and walk on at the school.

I emailed Coach Brown and asked him about the team. He invited me to an open run on a weekend. I played solid but not great and I started playing in more open runs, improving each time. I earned a spot on the roster after fighting to earn it during the preseason.

It was tough because the roster was filled with very experienced, older players and returning players. I was a junior at 20 years old and there were sophomores and freshmen already 25/26 years old, so I had to get stronger, get tougher, and mature quickly in order to fit the system of the team.

You told me that “it’s never too late to make your dreams a reality”.  Walk me through your journey from graduating college to becoming a grad assistant to ultimately becoming a professional basketball player.

After college basketball was over, I knew I wasn’t satisfied and I knew I wanted to take my game to the next level. The NBA was out of the equation, but I was only 22 years old so I was young and knew I could still have a chance to play overseas.

The one thing I wanted to make sure I did before playing overseas was to get my education, just in case basketball didn’t work out. I would have a master’s degree to fall back on. I talked to my coach and he gave me the opportunity to go to grad school for free by becoming the grad assistant on the coaching staff.

I took full advantage of the opportunity and learned so much about the game from another perspective and applied it to my own game. It was awesome because I was able to have the keys and access to the gym and the shooting gun any time I wanted to, so I was able to develop and improve my game during this time.

Once I finished my grad program, COVID-19 hit and that was the turning point that helped my career. As messed up as this may sound, COVID-19 was the best thing that could have happened to me in my basketball career. It was like a reset on everything and it was the ultimate test to see who wanted it and who didn’t.

You are either going to complain or use it to work harder, and I did just that.

I began running 2 miles a day and working out 3 times a day. I began working with skills trainers and just really locking in. Once things began to open up, I was invited to play in a couple of TBL combines and played well in them.

I was going to begin my career playing in the TBL until I had to opportunity to play overseas in Moldova. I immediately took advantage of the opportunity and I led the country in scoring and never looked back. It was never too late to make those dreams a reality and I live by this code.

Eugene Campbell III quote that says: "Understand that there are going to be tons of obstacles and setbacks. But if you stay true to the grind and keep pushing forward, it’s possible to get to the next level."

What is the most overlooked challenge of playing pro basketball overseas?

As an American, it’s always your fault no matter what. Especially an American point guard. There’s a lot of pressure on us and very few can handle it.

What is the #1 piece of advice you would give to a high school athlete who wants to play in college?

Know your why. And once you know your why, understand that there are going to be tons of obstacles and setbacks. But if you stay true to the grind and keep pushing forward, it’s possible to get to the next level.

Also, don’t be afraid to network and meet new people. You never know what connections you can build for your future and who might be able to assist your career. Always be professional no matter what, and always watch what you put on social media because even when you think people aren’t watching, they’re watching.

Tell me a little bit about your nonprofit, Walk A Mile N Our Shoes. How did you get the idea to start it?

On a cold night in February of 2019, me and a colleague of mine decided to go to the most homeless populated city in New Jersey (Newark) with over 20 bags of sneakers, clothes, and hand warmers. We were able to help the people of Newark who were sleeping under the train station and provided everyone in the area with the items we brought.

Since this day, we have consistently done community service in most parts of New Jersey. A couple of months later, I became a brother of the Psi Sigma Phi Multicultural Fraternity and got assistance from his brothers in an effort to give back to the community. After giving back to cities in New Jersey such as New Brunswick, Plainfield, Jersey City, East Orange, Rahway, Paterson, and Hoboken, I decided to turn Walkamilenourshoes into an official 501c3 in 2021.

Since then the organization has grown tremendously. Walkamilenourshoes became the national philanthropy for Psi Sigma Phi Multicultural Fraternity Incorporated.

In 202, Walkamilenourshoes did our first international community service in Moldova where I was playing basketball for the 2020-2021 season. We have received donations from companies such as Smartwool and Whole Foods Market. You can catch Walkamilenourshoes doing community service in almost every state in America and internationally.

As I keep elevating my basketball career I plan on growing and expanding Walkamilenourshoes. And with my dedicated team behind me, the sky is the limit for this organization.

To keep up with updates visit the website at www.walkamilenourshoes.org and our social media platforms @walkamilenourshoes.

How can our readers support you?

I am very active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. And I have a website that gives you more in-depth information about me.

Learn the secrets of today’s top 1% of athletes with our free Underdog Newsletter. Join thousands of subscribers here👇

Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.

Related

Baseball

Talent can emerge from unexpected places. It isn't always confined to the powerhouse programs you see on ESPN.

Football

This undrafted special teamer almost quit football before becoming a Pro Bowl NFL safety. All thanks to one pivotal conversion.

Football

The 243rd overall pick went from slingin' burgers to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Interviews

Once told he'd be raised in a wheelchair, this Texas high schooler is on a mission to "Prove Them All Wrong"