Longtime NBA trainer Chris Gaston has launched his own basketball agency firm and will represent Sacramento Kings star guard De’Aaron Fox.
The company, called Family First Sports Firm, will also split representation for Damyean Dotson with Chris Patrick Jr. from The Sports Law Group. Gaston, Fox and Dotson are all from Houston and they’ve known each other and worked together for a decade.
Gaston has trained a number of players with NBA experience including Gerald Green, Stephen Jackson and Eric Moreland. But he credits former Houston high school star Tommy Mason-Griffin as the person who helped start his career. Gaston also mentioned his work with Tobi Oyedeji, who was the top-ranked prospect in the state back in 2009 and committed to Texas A&M before tragically passing away in a car accident the night of his prom.
The new agent caught up with HoopsHype to discuss the next chapter of his career.
How long have you had your agency certification?
Chris Gaston: I got it in January! The test is offered once a year. You get one shot to get it right, man. Otherwise, you have to wait a whole extra year. But I knew I wasn’t going to stay in just the training and development box for my whole career. I didn’t have a specific timetable, but the timing was right to do this now.
You obviously boast a great client list with De’Aaron Fox and Damyean Dotson. What is it about these two players that made you feel ready to take the jump with them?
CG: The name of my company is Family First Sports Firm. Those guys are the perfect people to start with because they literally are family. I’ve literally known them since they were adolescent. Dotson is family on my wife’s side, so I’ve known him since he was in middle school. I started working with Fox when he was 13 years old, too. So those guys are the epitome of Family First. We’re all from Houston, Texas.
What are some ways you plan to make the Family First name influence the way you act as an agent?
CG: We plan to be different from any other company, firm or agency. It really is going to be about the family and that player’s inner circle and the people that they trust. Those guys are going to be the employees of the company. When people ask me who is going to work for me, I tell them each player is going to have their own ecosystem. Each player will have a set of employees and people that he trusts around him. They’re going to learn and grow the business. I have a staff of professional people, too, but nobody is going to know the player better than the people that he trusts and the ones that helped him get to where he is now.
Can you explain how this will work with each individual client? How will it work for Fox?
CG: De’Aaron is going to have a manager, who will be his high school coach Emmanuel Olatunbosun, and he will watch over his day-to-day affairs. Then his best friend Reno is going to learn and grow the business on all sides, from marketing to training to public relations. His brother is going to be involved in every part of De’Aaron Fox Enterprises.
Do you know of any short-term or long-term goals that De’Aaron Fox Enterprises has outside of basketball that you can help him with?
CG: That’s the beauty of it. He is only 21 years old. We want him to grow into whatever he wants to become. People put so much pressure on these guys to have it figured out, start the business. That’s not true. He has his whole life ahead of him and he doesn’t have to know everything he wants to accomplish yet. His main focus should be basketball and becoming the best basketball player to be. That is what is going to open up the doors off the court. We just want to move slow and steady and not rush into anything.
You obviously have a huge background as a prolific trainer who has gotten so many players ready for the NBA in so many ways. How much will you have to outsource that practice now?
CG: I feel what I’m doing now is revolutionary and I’ve actually received several calls today from trainers around the business and around the country. As far as I know, I’m going to be the first trainer in player development who also represents his player. My training will never die. That is what made me and helped me build my relationships. Obviously, I will have to outsource that as we grow and pay more attention to guys off the court. But I am going to start with a small client list first and with them, I’ll still handle their needs on the court as well.
What have you learned already as a trainer that you think is going to make you such good representation for an NBA player?
CG: I feel it gives me an advantage over other agents even though some may try to use it against me, saying I’m just a trainer who has no idea what he is doing. In fact, it helps me because GMs and coaches and scouts enjoy talking to a guy who is a basketball guy and is on the floor with these players and knows the nuances and the ins and outs of the game. It gives me an intimate first-hand experience with the players. It gives me an upper hand on Agent A who is just a guy sitting inside who is not going to get down and dirty and sweat with his players. I know what it takes. I know what an NBA player looks like because I’ve been hands-on with them. I know all of the terminologies, how to get your shot off, the speed of the game, the spacing. The average agent might not have that same ability to articulate all of that because their background might be in business.
Outside of what you have done with your training, what is the business background you have that makes you qualified for this new venture?
CG: People don’t know that one of my best friends, Ndudi Ebi, went straight from high school to the NBA in 2003. Before I even knew that I was both managing and training, I was doing it as a 19-year-old. I was around his agent, Byron Irvin, working him out. He was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves so I was around Kevin Garnett and that was my introduction to the world. And then when I graduated from college, I started my own company: Houston Preps. That was a one-stop shop for high school basketball. I literally did it all. It was before social media, but we had videos, recording workouts and training kids at the same time. I was doing high school rankings and I was doing newsletters. I did a college recruiting service. I had an AAU program that I partnered with Clyde Drexler. That is actually how I met De’Aaron. It wasn’t a shoe sponsor thing, it was more of a team for the underdogs. I have run the whole gauntlet of basically anything you can do in the business of basketball and it has prepared me for the next level.
What might not be initially understood about your goals and intentions of your new company?
CG: I want to inspire people who look like me and show minorities in this industry that you can cross over from being a trainer or a manager or even a consultant to being on the business side. Guys can hire their friends or their mentors and they are more than capable of handling the business. The agent business has looked one way for so long, but I think Rich Paul sparked a fire in a lot of people and I want to do the same thing. I want to show that you can elevate and grow the business. You don’t have to be stuck in one position. Players can hire guys who look like them. It doesn’t have to be one way.