Interview with Donovan Smalls II, Founder of The Second Assist


I had the pleasure of interviewing Donovan and he has an amazing story and business that is helping student athletes develop to their full potential. The first video that I saw was him sharing how going to a D2 or D3 school might yield a better experience than some D1 schools.  Below we had a candid conversation about his path from athlete to entrepreneur. 

  1. What is your back story?

My name is Donovan A. Smalls II.  I am from Union, New Jersey.  During my middle and high school years, I was a nationally ranked basketball player.  Division I became a part of my vocabulary and focus at an early age.  My determination and effort increased as I was invited to the prestigious Nike Basketball Camp.  There, I found myself competing with and against current NBA players such as, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Derrick Rose (Cleveland Cavaliers), Ishmael Smith (Detroit Pistons), and Spencer Hawes (Milwaukee Bucks) to name a few.  With letters of interest pouring in from major colleges and universities, I believed that my dream of being a Division I basketball player was becoming a reality.  To substantiate my belief, I received personal phone calls from a former head coach at Stanford University among others.  My family and I were convinced that I was going to be a Division I basketball player.  However, my dreams of becoming a Division I student-athlete took many detours and never went as planned.

As my athletic career unfolded, I was left without a Division I scholarship.  It seemed as if my basketball goals would never become a reality.  Like many high school senior athletes who seek additional exposure, instead of enrolling in my first year of college, I attended prep school hundreds of miles away from home.  The idea was to attract the attention of Division I coaches one last time.  When the scholarship still did not come, I was heartbroken, embarrassed, and felt like a failure because I had worked so hard at becoming a Division I athlete.  Not wanting to give up on my dreams, I tried to join the basketball team as a walk on at a Division I institution.  However, walking on did not work out and once again I felt I had let myself down.

Nevertheless, I went on to play Division II and Division III basketball.  There, I learned how to use basketball as a tool to help fulfill my life purpose.  Although my athletic career was coming to an end, I realized I could still become a professional in the sports field.  I began to understand that I could have a tremendous impact on the lives of young people by teaching them the connection between life and sport.

         2.As you've transitioned to entrepreneurship, what have been your biggest obstacles?

Recently, I have created The Second Assist.  This organization works with athletic programs to help empower student-athletes with the knowledge and skills needed to transition from student-athlete to working professional.  By accomplishing this objective, I believe that student-athletes will be better equipped for leadership roles in a global society.

One of the biggest obstacles I have experienced deals with the concept of patience.  Although, I have a huge vision for The Second Assist, I have realized that success does not happen overnight.  Many times we expect instant gratification after we complete a task.  Our passion supersedes the process that we must go through in order for our business to flourish.  However, I am learning that faith and consistent effort separates the good from the great.  I would encourage others not to give up on their entrepreneurial endeavors.  But, understand that success takes time and it cannot be rushed.

         3.What do you hope to accomplish as you continue to grow your business?

As The Second Assist continues to grow, my desire is to impact the lives of as many student-athletes as possible in a positive manner.  I have been blessed with an amazing support system that helped me along my journey as a student-athlete.  I aspire to continue to serve as a consultant and mentor for student-athletes who are not necessarily as fortunate to have positive role models in their life.  My hope is that I will work with as many athletic programs as possible to help empower student-athletes with the necessary tools needed to succeed in life after sport.

        4.What's more important to you, the money or the impact you can have on people’s lives?

Money is necessary to live a sustainable life.  However, I am a firm believer that money cannot amount to the joy that I experience by impacting the lives of others.  The individuals that I deem to be successful are those who strive to make this world a better place.  In doing so, money has seemed to become a byproduct of the value they provide.  I strive to be an influential leader in the Sport Management profession.  I believe that the money will come as I continue to perfect my craft.  I will continue to focus on adding value and allow money to be a byproduct of the impact that I have on others.

To connect with Donovan, visit his link below. 

Donovan A. Smalls II___________________________________________________________

Donovan A. Smalls II is committed to providing an opportunity for student-athletes to fully develop their academic and athletic potential.  Donovan is dedicated to empowering student-athletes with the knowledge and skills needed to transition from student-athlete to working professional.  By accomplishing this objective, he believes that student-athletes will be better equipped for leadership roles in a global society.

Current Position_______________________________________________________________

  • Health & Physical Education Teacher in New Jersey

  • Doctoral Student (Drexel University)

    • Educational Leadership & Management: Athletic Administration

  • Founder of The Second Assist

Let’s Work Together!___________________________________________________________



YouTube:  TheSecondAssist

Twitter:  @DonovanSmalls2    

Instagram:  @DonovanSmalls2

LinkedIn:  Donovan A. Smalls II