Travel basketball programs typically focus on the fundamentals of the sport, but at Earl Watson Elite, they see the bigger picture. Colleges factor in a student’s grade point average as much as they do their athletic abilities, because student athletes have to qualify academically to receive an athletic scholarship. Universities also need to know that the athlete can stay academically eligible.

Because of this, the coaches at Earl Watson Elite, require the basketball players in their program to maintain a 3.0 GPA.

“We want to make sure that kids going from middle school to high school understand that education is important,” said Donley Minor, director of the middle school program. “Even if you play basketball, no matter what you do, your education always comes first.”

Minor and the other coaches check their players’ report cards every two months, and they make sure that everybody meets the standards.

“If they don’t have a 3.0, we’ll set them up with tutors, or set them up with anything that will make them better,” Minor said. “A lot of the parents in the program are teachers. Former students of the program who are now college graduates are being used to make sure that these kids bring their grade point average up. I’m not satisfied with anybody who does not have a least a 3.0. That’s not acceptable.”

Students who fall under the 3.0 mark do not stay there for long.

“The peer pressure gets to them,” Minor said. “They know that other people are looking at their report card. Especially a coach, which is me. When I find out that a player is messing up, I walk up to him and talk to him and see what’s going on.”

To recognize the players’ efforts, Earl Watson Elite honored the more than 40 students in the program who had a GPA above 3.0, 14 of the students are above a 3.8, and they had five students who were above 4.0.

The students were honored at a fundraising gala, which was held at the Xen Lounge in Studio City.

As much as the program is about basketball, it’s about getting kids to college said Minor.

“We’re trying to get kids to Harvard, and Yale,” Minor said. “To the top schools in the country.”