Blog Written by Erin Kirwan for Shooting For Success

Sometimes we discover ourselves at the most unexpected times.  Or sometimes, someone else discovers something about us that changes our life. For 13-year-old Pat Thepuatrakul, this unique awakening happened on a hot summer day inside a San Antonio gym, at basketball camp.

Like so many young boys, Pat grew up playing a lot of sports. From an early age, his parents introduced him to them all. Pat played baseball.  He played tennis.  He tried soccer.

Pat even swam.  But Pat’s dad says his son never seemed to fully connect with any of the sports he spent summers and other seasons trying out.  At baseball, for example, Paul Thepuatrakul says, Pat was that kid who kicked up rocks around second base or would be caught starring off into left field.  Literally.  Thepuatrakul says his son didn’t seem focused.  He was no doubt super cute standing bat in hand at home plate in his Little League uniform.  And, truth be told, Pat wasn’t bad. In fact, he was pretty good, especially rounding the bases.

But Pat just didn’t seem interested.  More so, Pat just didn’t seem to be having fun.

Then, one evening, something interesting happened between the Thepuatrakul father and son.

This one night, as Thepautrakul, a die-hard Spurs fan, was watching a game on TV, the then 10-year-old Pat asked his dad a sports related question: Hey dad, What sport do you like best?  Thepautrakul answered by telling Pat he enjoys basketball best.

Me too, Pat responded.

Me too.  Two simple yet very meaningful words.

Me too. The words sunk heavily into Thepuatrakul’s heart and mind.

Pat went on to tell his father that he not only enjoys watching basketball, he wants to play it.  So, like with so many other sports that had come before the pair, Thepuatrakul signed Pat up.  He registered Pat for a week-long basketball camp with Shooting For Success, a youth basketball organization run by the former professional player turned Shooting For Success Founder, David “DJ” Jones.  Thepuatrakul learned of the camp through some of Pat’s friends.  Thepuatrakul was impressed with what he had heard about Jones’ 13-year stint playing basketball overseas leading his German team in records for 3-point shots and points scored per game.  Jones even had the nickname “The Shot Doctor” for having worked with Professional Player, Jeremy Lin, and, having “fixed” his once-broken shot.

Dropping Pat off with his new basketball shoes and water bottle in hand at the Shooting For Success Stone Oak area gymnasium, Thepautrakul didn’t necessarily have high hopes for his son.  Short, and of Asian decent, Pat had never really shot around the park much before, let alone dribbled a basketball or run plays.  And, Pat’s prior record with recreational sports hadn’t produced much pride or passion thus far.

“All I  wanted was for Pat to enjoy basketball, to get some exercise, and to have fun,” Thepautrakul said.  Little did Thepautrakul know, however, that fun, would soon turn to fervor.

“I loved it,” Pat said.  He loved all aspects of the Shooting For Success basketball camp, especially running drills that worked on ball handling and dribbling. Pat says he would return home from a long day of basketball camp only to pick up a ball at home and dribble some more.  “My dad would tell me to stop dribbling (in the house) because it would get annoying after awhile,” laughed Pat.  “But I couldn’t stop.”

Not only did Pat seem to fall in love with basketball during camp, the young San Antonio boy stood out.  At least, to coach and SFS founder Jones.  Jones noticed Pat’s speed from the get-go.

“He couldn’t dribble very well and his basketball IQ was pretty low,” said Jones.  “But Pat was lightning fast.”

Jones approached the then10-year-old to tell Pat he was fast.  Lightning fast.  Furthermore, DJ told Pat that as his basketball coach, he could develop Pat into one heck of a basketball player.

“When Coach DJ told me I could be good and that he noticed how fast I was and that he liked what he was seeing – well, that meant the world to me.  No coach had ever told me that before.”

Pat attended five full weeks of Shooting For Success basketball camp that summer.  He learned to dribble.  He learned to shoot with correct mechanics.  And he ran.  A lot.  In the course of just a few weeks, Pat went from a ten-year-old basketball novice to a young player with serious potential.  So much potential that DJ talked to Pat and Thepuatrakul about Pat joining his club basketball team.” I remember being blown away,” Thepautrakul said.  “We went into basketball camp that summer with very few expectations.  What came as a result was far greater than we could have ever imagined.”

And, Pat has never looked back.  This winter marked Pat’s third season with Shooting For Success.  He estimates he’s probably attended close to 30 weeks of basketball camp over the years.

DJ has continued to use Pat’s lightning fast speed and impressive footwork and points to it for a lot of the team’s success over the years. Pat is one of only four players on Shooting For Success’ 14U Boys traveling club team whom DJ enters into showcases designed to increase an athlete’s exposure as future collegiate basketball prospects.  Pat’s been a part of several big SFS team tournament wins and has been named M-V-P more than once.  DJ, who also runs international basketball camps and programs, also has his eye on Pat for global play.  As a dual citizen of both the United States and Thailand, Pat could one day play for the Thailand Men’s National Team, something DJ is already training him for.

All of this from a player who simply attended a basketball camp three years ago to “have fun.”

As I was interviewing Pat for this blog, I asked him about his basketball goals – what he sees in his future.  His answer?  To become an even better shooter and to increase his basketball IQ, said Pat.  Now I was blown away, as both the author of this blog and a basketball mom.  I expected Pat to answer with what most 13-year-old ballers would say – that he wants to play college or professional basketball.  But not Pat.  This 8th grader focused on the what instead of the where – What he will do to get him where he wants to go.  Pat thought of his skill set and how he can get better over being at the top.

That’s not to say Pat doesn’t have big hoop dreams.  He does.  Pat’s ultimate goal is to play in the NBA.  Should that not work out, Pat says he would be honored to play for the Thai team – aligning him with the homeland of his father.  Ironically, a place so far away from home yet so close to where it all began that one night in front of the television set while watching the Spurs.   A simple, “Me too, Dad”, informing a father of a son’s newfound interest followed by a week of basketball camp that would prove to be life-changing.


Shooting For Success holds basketball camp for players age 5 – 14 each winter, spring, and summer.  SFS’s upcoming winter camp dates are December 26 – 29 and January 2-5 from 8AM – 5PM.   A complete camp description and information on registration can be found on the Shooting For Success website.

Author, Erin Kirwan is PR Manager with Shooting For Success.  She’s a former broadcast journalist who shared her stories in various news markets across the country.  Erin is also a proud basketball mom to twin 14-year-old boys and an 11-year-old daughter.