Jeremy Kipness was born in Queens, New York and raised in Guilford, Connecticut. After a successful high school career at Guilford High School for his first three years Kipness transferred to Massapequa High School in Long Island, New York where he played for well-respected high school coach, Martin Voight, before accepting an offer to play at Division-III New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. Prior to his first season with the Pilgrims, he realized that as much as he loved playing and competing on the court as a player, he wanted to pursue a career as a coach and decided to forgo his college playing career to get a jump start in the coaching profession.
From there, Kipness transferred to the University of Louisville, where he served as a Student-Manager for the men’s basketball team under the tutelage and mentorship of Hall-of-Fame Head Coach, Rick Pitino (2011-2014). During his time with Louisville the Cardinals achieved monumental success: winning a school-record 35 games en route to winning the 2013 NCAA National Championship, advancing to the 2012 Final Four, winning two Big East regular season and tournament titles, and an American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament crown. He graduated from the University of Louisville in 2015 with a Bachelors Degree in Sport Administration.
After his time at Louisville, Kipness resided in Senegal, West Africa, where he worked as Director of Player Development Intern with SEED Project (Sports for Education and Economic Development). During his time abroad he provided leadership and direction for a soundly based, consistent, and coordinated Player Development curriculum, while working with SEED Project to develop the basketball landscape over in Senegal, West Africa.
Kipness then served as the Associate Head Varsity Coach and Head Freshmen Coach at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona for the 2015-2016 season, and is a huge advocate of player development and individual skill instruction. For the last nine years, he has worked as a skill development specialist with players at the youth level on up to the Division-I collegiate and professional level. While at Louisville, Kipness aided in the development of 5 NBA Draft Picks (Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell), as well as countless professional players overseas (Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear, Stephan Van Treese, Chris Jones, Rakeem Buckles).
Kipness has also traveled the country coaching at numerous elite summer basketball camps over the last four years, working alongside the likes of Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo, Former Florida Gators and current Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan, UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie, and Memphis Tigers Head Coach Josh Pastner. He also co-founded and helped manage the Connecticut Wizards' AAU basketball program in 2009 as a high school junior, which has grown to encompass eight teams total, both boys and girls ranging from U10 to U16.
In September of 2015, Kipness along with his father, Aspire's President of Operations, Michael Kipness, founded Aspire Basketball Academy and started laying the groundwork for their program's inaugural season for the 2016-17 academic year. In August 2016, Aspire Academy welcomed 21 student-athletes to comprise both the national high school and the post graduate teams. 3 continents, and 7 different countries were represented amongst the student-body, including 3 from Senegal, 2 from Canada and 1 apiece from Germany, Serbia, and Croatia. For the 2016-17 season, Kipness served as the Director of Basketball Operations and Head Coach for the national high school boys' team.
Upon Aspire's relocation to Louisville, Kentucky for the 2017-2018 academic year, Kipness' has continued to serve in the positions of Director of Operations, and Head Coach of Aspire Academy's national high school team. In Aspire Academy's first season in Louisville, Kentucky, Kipness was able to steer the Wizards to a 24-11 season record and an appearance in the Finals of the 'Grind Session World Championship'. Even more impressive, all 6 seniors in the class of 2018 signed National Letters of Intent with Division-1 programs. During the 2018-19 campaign, the Kipness-led Wizards battled injuries all season long, while playing 1 of the toughest schedules in the country and still were able to make it to the Final Four of the NACA National Championship, and an Elite Eight appearance in the Grind Session World Championships. All 4 seniors received full-scholarships, signed National Letters of Intent with Division-1 programs and will be full-qualifiers as soon as they step foot on campus.
Originally from Charleston, West Virginia, Roger McClendon moved to Endicott, New York when he was four years old and then to Champaign, Illinois in the eighth grade, when his father, John, accepted a teaching position at the University of Illinois. In 1984, McClendon emerged from Centennial High School as a McDonald’s All-American, one of the top 25 high school basketball players in the nation. McDonald’s All-Americans are the gold standard in college hoops recruiting, and combined with his strong ACT scores, McClendon was never short of scholarship offers.
With a love for challenges and problem-solving, McClendon knew early on that he wanted to pursue the field of engineering. And so, he and his family set out to find the top engineering schools in the nation. McClendon’s top five schools were the University of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois, Vanderbilt, and the University of Louisville. Seeking a holistic college experience, he interviewed each prospective university, using 25 questions such as; Would I be allowed to be late to basketball practice due to lab? Would I be allowed to grow a mustache or a beard if I wanted to?
McClendon was one of the first McDonald’s All-Americans to enroll at the University of Cincinnati and as an athlete, he required special permission from the CEAS dean at the time, Dr. Louis McNeal Laushey, to play on the men’s basketball team while enrolled in the College’s electrical engineering (EE) program.
McClendon enjoyed remarkable success during his time at UC. A well-known, four-year starter who closed his University of Cincinnati (UC) men’s basketball career as No. 2 scorer, second only to Oscar Robertson at the time, is considered the Bearcats player of the decade from the 1980’s and was inducted into the UC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. He graduated from the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), majoring in electrical engineering in ’91.
Shortly after graduating from UC, McClendon was the co-founder of ICS Computer Technical Training Center for Youth in Cincinnati. He was also a volunteer for the McClendon Institute for Learning Outreach Programs in Dayton.
Roger McClendon was then able to set a new precedent as Chief Sustainability Officer of YUM! Brands, Inc. YUM! is the world’s largest restaurant company, with over 43,000 restaurants and more than 1.5 million employees in over 135 countries. YUM! is the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC and is based in Louisville, Kentucky.
McClendon served as the billion dollar company’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), a role he convinced YUM’s CEO, David Novak to create in 2010. As an engineer who had worked in multiple functions of the company, he saw an opportunity for the company to utilize and leverage sustainability as a strategic framework for their ongoing business success.
Charged with ensuring that all brand restaurants are operating efficiently while minimizing environmental impact through innovation, he continues to make the company a leader in environmental and social responsibility. Under his guidance, YUM! has eliminated the release of almost 1.2 million metric tons of CO2—that’s the equivalent of removing 225K cars off the road!
McClendon and his team created a streamlined path to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, for his design and construction teams called the Blueline—a sustainable restaurant design, build, operate, and maintain standard. It uses key restaurant relevant aspects of LEED paired with the proven, actionable solutions in areas such as lighting and optimized hood exhaust. With the Blueline standard approach, he’s overseen the construction of over 30 LEED certified restaurants across nine countries and has reduced YUM!’s energy consumption by a staggering 30% in Shanghai and Beijing. The Blueline technologies have been scaled and implemented in over 5,000 Yum restaurants around the globe to date and continues to expand.
To further promote energy efficiency and find more routes to reduce YUM!’s carbon footprint, McClendon has garnered the support of the United States Green Building Council as well as the US Department of Energy’s Better Building Alliance and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
McClendon has 30+ years of manufacturing plant operations and restaurant experience paired with expertise in engineering, new product development and quality assurance.
Prior to his current role, McClendon served as Senior Director of Yum! Brands Global Engineering and Facilities with a focus on energy and water conservation. He previously served as Senior Project Engineering Manager for Yum! Restaurants International (YRI), where he supervised KFC Global Engineering initiatives in Australia, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. McClendon was also the Director of Global Engineering for Long John Silver’s and A&W Multi-branding.
Outside of the office, McClendon devotes his time and energy to giving back to the community that presented him with limitless opportunities throughout the years. He states his world revolves around Faith, Family, Community, and Career, in that order of priority as he calls it: F-squared, C-squared.
Roger McClendon served on the Louisville Sports Commission Board of Directors and is a current board member of the Louisville Kentucky African American Heritage Center. Over the years, he has helped support several AAU Basketball Programs in the city of Louisville, such as F.O.C.U.S. Basketball Academy.
He is the recipient of numerous awards including the NAFEM Global Engineering Meeting Award from China and Japan, and the Yum! Global Engineering Innovation Award.
President and Co-Chair of the Board, Roger McClendon during half-time of Aspire Academy's 2017-18 'Red-White Scrimmage'.
Michael Kipness was born in New York City in 1957 and quickly became enamored with Basketball at a young age. He lived just blocks away from Power Memorial High School where he watched Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lew Alcindor at the time) dominate his peers. Kipness was a passionate fan of both the NY Knicks and NY Nets. When not attending games at Madison Square Garden, he was listening to the ‘play by play’ of Marv Albert through his transistor radio. Kipness would take a subway a few stops up to Harlem to watch outside the gates of Rucker Park the great street legends such as Julius ‘Dr. J’ Irving, Connie Hawkins, Pee Wee Kirkland, Earl ‘the goat’ Manigault, Joe Hammond, Herman ‘Helicopter’ Knowings and many more.
Kipness attended Bernard Baruch College in New York City, graduating with a Bachelors Degree in 1983 with a double major in Education and Psychology. He started his professional career working his way up to General Manager of the world-renowned family owned restaurant, Joe’s Pier 52, located in the theater district. As General Manager, Kipness was responsible for managing and overseeing a staff of over 125 employees, as well as being responsible for the purchase of all food and beverages. During his tenure there, Kipness managed the accounting of $7 million + a year in gross sales.
He took advantage of his entrepreneurial way of thinking and business skills and turned his passion for thoroughbred horse racing into a profession, starting up “Wizard Publications” in 1987, which has become one of America's premier thoroughbred horse racing publications.
Michael Kipness' career has been featured in several national magazines and has served as a commentator on Television. He also has achieved success as a horse owner and advisor to several of America’s best trainers and owners throughout his career.
Along with his son Jeremy, this father and son duo have scouted many players at very young ages that have gone on to make a name for themselves at the high school, college and NBA levels. It has always been a dream of the 2 of them to establish a world-class Basketball Academy with emphasis on quality education and helping shape the character and emotional development of the student athlete both on and off the basketball court.
Luke Hancock was born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, and attended Hidden Valley High School where he received All-State honors as a senior in high school. Without any scholarship offers, Hancock then went to Hargrave Military Academy for a post graduate year, where he was recruited to attend George Mason University by Head Coach Jim Larranaga.
He played for George Mason in his freshman and sophomore years While at George Mason, he averaged 7.7 points per game as a freshman and 10.9 points as a sophomore. In his second season, he was named to the All-Colonial Athletic Association third team. Larrañaga accepted the head coaching job at the University of Miami after the 2010–11 season, taking his entire coaching staff with him and leading Hancock to transfer. Hancock transferred to the University of Louisville, which had hired his former Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts as an assistant, and did not play in 2011–12 after transferring.
Hancock was named the captain of the Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team before appearing in a game for the Cardinals. Hancock averaged 7.7 points per game playing for Louisville in 2012-13. In the 2013 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, he was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player (MOP). He scored 20 points in the national semifinals against the Wichita State Shockers. In the title game against the Michigan Wolverines, the Cardinals trailed by 12 points late in the first half before Hancock scored 14 straight points for the team to cut the deficit to one by halftime. He finished the game five-for-five on three-point shooting, and Louisville won, 82–76. He became the first reserve player in tournament history to be named the MOP.
After going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, Hancock joined the Orlando Magic for the Orlando Summer League and the Houston Rockets for the Las Vegas Summer League. On September 25, 2014, he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies
In November of 2014, Hancock signed with Panionios of the Greek Basket League. Hancock played in six games before tearing a muscle in his calf. The injury made him realize he needed to prepare for life after basketball, so he retired from the sport, studied to become a financial adviser, and eventually began working in Louisville, Kentucky for Lamkin Wealth Management. He is currently a financial advisor at Clearpath Financial of Raymond James.
Hancock has continued his community involvement in Louisville, most notably with the nonprofit group Families for Effective Autism Treatment of Louisville (FEAT). He first became involved with the organization in 2014 while still attending Louisville. After returning from his brief professional career in Greece, he started organizing basketball camps for children on the autism spectrum, which he has continued to do ever since. Hancock serves on FEAT's board of directors.
Ryan Williams was born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia and played his high school ball in the highly competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in the DMV for Paul VI Catholic High School. Ryan was selected as a 2nd team all conference, first team All-region and honorable mention All-met in his senior season at Paul VI. He helped record back-to-back 20 win seasons and make it to the schools first WCAC conference championship and win a Virginia All “A” state championship.
After high school, Ryan went on full scholarship to play at Pace University in Westchester, NY and was a 4 year starter. He led team in scoring all four years, was freshman of the year, 2-time first team all-conference, 2-time first team all-region and D2 honorable mention All-American his junior and senior season. Ryan finished his collegiate career 2nd all time on career scoring list with 1892 points and first in career three pointers with 390 threes. He was selected to the prestigious NABC D2 All star game held in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Basketball Hall of Fame.
After college Ryan went on to play in Europe for 3 seasons in Berlin Germany. After his stint in Germany, he decided to get into coaching and player development. Ryan served as JV Head and Assistant Varsity Coach at Eastern High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He then moved on to coach a season at Division-III Spalding University in Louisville, before deciding to get more into the player development side of game working with a lot of professional, college and youth players.
Ryan really enjoys the development and building process that goes into the day-to-day grind of building a complete player and team. He graduated from Pace University with a Bachelors degree in Business Management.
Matthew Kessler was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. While living in Louisville, he attended Ballard High School, which is where his passion for coaching really came to the forefront, thanks to the guidance and mentorship of Coach Chris Renner, Greg Willis and the rest of the Ballard Boys Basketball staff.
He has gained valuable experience in the following:
Through his connection with Coach Tim Barnett owner of F.O.C.U.S. Basketball Academy, Director of Operations and Post Grad Head Coach, he was able to join the Aspire Academy staff in August of 2018.
His duties at Aspire consist of helping coaches with day to day operations and gameday management. Matt really enjoys getting to work with high level athletes from all over the world and is currently pursuing a degree in Education.
Blair Tolar was born and raised in a small town in Western Kentucky, Paducah. After graduating from college at Murray State University, he attended the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Blair remained in Louisville after graduation to complete a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
After completing residency, Blair returned home with his wife, Rheanel (a board certified Internal Medicine physician), and infant twin sons, Noah and Colin, in 2004. Blair and Rheanel expanded their family in 2007 with the arrival of Max and again in 2012 when they adopted Eva from Kolomna, Russia. Blair continues to practice medicine as an obstetrician and gynecologist. Currently, he also serves as the Medical Director for the Baptist Health Medical Group where he serves in a leadership position for advocacy, strategic planning, and optimization of an 80 health care provider multi specialty group.
After helping with some local high school prep basketball events in Western Kentucky, Blair found a new passion including the development of relationships with basketball players, the coaches and their families. Blair and his family continue to be involved in these people's lives and has followed several of the players' careers as they have achieved the ultimate dream of playing in the NBA.
Most recently, through these events, Blair has developed a close and unique relationship with Jeremy and Michael Kipness. Blair wants to be a part of a process that results in the improvement of these young men. He wants to see these young men leave better than they were when they arrived. Blair believes that Aspire Academy has the right mind set and core values to achieve these things.