LINCOLNTON – Combine Academy, a boarding school and professional sports performance center that relocated from Charlotte to Lincoln County in 2017, announced the hiring of Jeff McInnis as head basketball coach June 12.
“I’ve been in contact with Combine for a couple of years, starting back when they were in Charlotte,” McInnis said. “Back then they told me about the campus they were putting together and they’ve just stayed in touch throughout the years.”
McInnis was recently invited to Lincolnton for a tour of the campus, and that’s when he was offered the job.
“I took a couple weeks to think about it, and after consulting with some of my good friends and coaches I’ve worked with who told me it was a good opportunity, I just pounced on it,” he said. “Now it’s time to get to work.”
McInnis, who starred with the North Carolina Tar Heels after leading West Charlotte to a state championship in 1991, turned to coaching after retiring from the NBA in 2008.
“Being a former high-level collegiate athlete at UNC and a former NBA athlete, his expertise and ability to relate to our students through his experience of reaching those top levels of the sport will be big for our program, but that’s really the least of his value,” said Combine President and CEO Jonah Baize, a former Clemson basketball player. “His value truly lies in his passion for the students, his passion for college placement and his passion for coaching the game. He has all the different attributes that an organization like Combine could want in its head coach.”
After his 13-year career in the NBA, McInnis founded Team Charlotte, an Under Armour-sponsored AAU program that has risen through the ranks of the nation’s elite travel teams throughout the past decade. Through his work with Team Charlotte, McInnis has helped numerous players earn Division I scholarships, including point guard Devon Dotson, who’s preparing for his sophomore season with the Kansas Jayhawks.
“The biggest thing for me is helping these kids,” McInnis said. “Starting out, I wanted to help kids who were kind of lost at the time. I started training kids and that led to me founding Team Charlotte, and then that turned into mentorship because we’ve got to help these kids with more than just basketball. We teach life lessons, and if you look at our success rate, most of our kids do come out on top.”
It’s those relationships McInnis has built through Team Charlotte that Baize expects to pay immediate dividends for the program at Combine.
“We’ve had five of the top 50 players in the country visit just in the past week since we announced the hire,” Baize said. “We’re talking to five- and four-star recruits from across the United States, as well as guys out of Mecklenburg County being recruited at the highest level, so we’re looking to make a big impact. (McInnis) has some great connections and a passion for the game that’s going to make us a program on the rise, so we’re very excited.”
McInnis is assembling a coaching staff and building a roster for the upcoming season.
“Building our roster is step number one,” McInnis said. “All of us as a staff are just excited to solidify our roster and then get the guys on the court. AAU is just on the weekends, so this is the first time we’ll be able to work with our players year-round.”
In terms of his coaching philosophy, McInnis wants Combine to play an up-tempo, exciting brand of basketball.
“We’re going to apply pressure on defense, run, shoot 3s and just make the game fun,” he said. “People don’t want to watch a boring game, so we’re going to make it exciting and hopefully win a lot of games because that’s the most important thing.”
Combine has set its sights high, scheduling games against powerhouse programs like Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, IMG Academy in Florida and Virginia’s Hargrave Military Academy. Combine will also compete at some of the top invitation-only tournaments across the country in pursuit of a national championship.