GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After years of playing basketball across the U.S. and world, a Grand Rapids-area man is now working to pave the way for young athletes to get to the next level.

Marcus Lancaster played Division 2 basketball at the University of Montevallo before playing professionally in both the International and American Basketball Associations. In 2013, he moved to Atlanta and his focus shifted to helping other athletes through coaching. 

“Once I got that first feeling of helping others and helping other student-athletes achieve their goals, that was one of the best feelings that I’ve had,” he explained. “I kind of felt like God put me on this earth to help others as well… not just for me to play basketball or me do this. No, it’s also you got to give back to not only just my community but give back to the world with one kid at a time if possible.”

He eventually moved back to Michigan and started UTS Sports Training in 2017. The program has grown a lot since then.

“We started building new teams every year, so right now, we’re up to seven teams,” Lancaster said. “We have three girl teams and then four boy teams in our AAU program and it all stemmed just from training and the skill development that we’ve been doing.”

Lancaster trains athletes from across the state and Midwest. Many of them have gone on to play college ball and some have even gone pro.

“We do have our set, you know, student-athletes here in the Grand Rapids area, but we’re more of a national program. We have student-athletes that travel from Wisconsin. We have student-athletes that travel from Indiana, all through the state of Michigan as well.”

He said the goal is to help young athletes play in college on a scholarship. UTS has been operating out of facilities like school gyms when they’re available, but Lancaster’s latest project will give his program and athletes a permanent home. He’s currently renovating a new indoor facility connected to his business partner’s house. With high ceilings and plenty of space, it will allow him to expand his program even further.

Marcus Lancaster, CEO of UTS Sports Training, will soon have a permanent training facility for young athletes

“We’re going to be able to offer so many slots, from trainings to different one-on-one workouts, small group workouts.”

He recently put up a 72-inch hoop and plans to add court-style flooring, padding and curtains around the windows, a weight area, and even a lounge with a bathroom and kitchenette for parents. 

“We’re just really getting things up and running. We still got a lot of work to do, but I’m excited.”

For some athletes, the cost of additional training can be a barrier, but Lancaster said it doesn’t always have to be. 

“I sometimes know financially it could be a big piece sometimes,” he said. “That’s not a problem for us. Please still contact us. Whether it’s a financial problem or anything, please contact us. We are excited to have everybody be a part of it.”