Visa trouble threatens basketball dream

Adam Correia on the bench before Pedro Menendez High School’s Dec. 1 contest against North Florida Educational Institution.
Adam Correia on the bench before Pedro Menendez High School’s Dec. 1 contest against North Florida Educational Institution.

Adam Correia on the bench before Pedro Menendez High School’s Dec. 1 contest against North Florida Educational Institution.

By Montana Samuels |
It was Dec. 1 on an unusually warm day in St. Johns County in northeast Florida. The Pedro Menendez High School gym was near empty at 6:20 p.m., 20 minutes after the game’s scheduled start time. The other team, the North Florida Educational Institution, was running late.
With slicked back hair and a grey Pedro Menendez collared pullover, Adam Correia waited patiently for the rivals to arrive. Waiting patiently is something he has become quite used to, as he is currently about to begin the H-1B visa application process for the second time.
If the result of his first application is anything like his second, his days of coaching in the U.S. may be numbered, for now.
Correia’s journey in basketball began in the Paget Parish of Bermuda, where he says he didn’t get involved with the game until middle school.
Before basketball became his main focus, he was successful in the go-kart circuit. “The first year I won the whole year for the young kids, and then I also won the high points championship because I won the most races out of all the classes,” said Correia.
Though he enjoyed the feeling of winning, he wasn’t sold devoting all his time to go-kart racing. “I was like, I don’t know if I really like this, but I like winning,” said Correia.
He didn’t have the same doubts about basketball.
He had started going to a Saturday morning workout with one of his old coaches. They called it the “School of Excellence.”
It was during those workouts that Correia, then 14, decided that he wanted to turn his interest in the game into a career path.
“I went once and I couldn’t finish it. It was a challenge, and I said, oh I like this,” said Correia. “I did that camp for a month and it was like, wow, I love this game, I can’t get enough of it. I’m going to do everything I can to be around it.”
1Back at the Pedro Menendez gym, south of the historic town of St. Augustine, the North Florida Educational Institution, or NFEI, finally arrived.
Pedro Menendez players quickly got down to business, using a full-court press to create a flurry of turnovers. Correia’s coaching style is both laid back and assertive, frantic, yet under control. He knows exactly what he wants his team to do two plays before it happens, and it shows. Menendez jumps out to a 29–8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Much like his Pedro Menendez junior varsity team, Correia also adopted a figurative full-court press of his own after discovering his passion for the game, but not without facing some adversity.
“I tried out for the middle school team when I was still racing go-karts, and I didn’t make it my first time,” says Correia. “I thought, OK, I guess this isn’t for me, but then through the Saturday morning workouts, the coach saw me and said, oh, you have potential.”
Through the School of Excellence workouts, Correia was able to convince the same coach that cut him he was worthy of a spot on the roster, leading to his appearance in every game for the same team that had rejected him earlier in the year.
Once he made the middle school team, Correia’s time playing basketball in Bermuda progressed similarly to most high school players in the states. However, coming to the end of his senior year, the realization hit that his four years in Bermuda may have hindered his exposure to colleges.
This is when a friend, former University of Marshall guard Erica Woods, told him about a prep high school that she had attended in Florida, IMG Academy.
Correia visited IMG and took part in a workout which included future NBA players, and from that moment he knew that the school was for him.
“I fell in love the second I got there,” said Correia.
While at IMG, Correia played for the post-graduate team, which was coached by Daniel Bartow, now the current skills trainer for the Academy and de facto leader of the NBA pre-draft workouts.

Correia said with the outstanding facilities and coaching he received at IMG, he reached his basketball peak.
“It was the dream. The best year of my life, hands down. If I could go back and do it again, I’d do it all again.
“My day was literally: wake up at 8 a.m., practice in the morning. Then you have weights, then you have lunch, then you have a nap, after the nap you had afternoon practice, then you had optional pickup, which for me wasn’t optional. So basketball from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Everyday.”
This time in his life included a stint with the Bermudian national team, a 46-point performance in his high school alumni game, and multiple letters from colleges across the country.
“It was the dream. The best year of my life, hands down. If I could go back and do it again, I’d do it all again.”
But there was no going back.


Correia, shown with his teammates, during appearances with the Bermuda national team.


On that warm Sunday night, Pedro Menendez led NFEI 43–18. The team’s lead would have been even higher, but Menendez missed some opportunities.
The third quarter saw the substitutes come in, causing the game to slow exponentially from its frantic pace of the first half, much like the second half of Correia’s journey.
“I have options,” said Correia. “A school in Canada (Acadia University) offered me a full ride, a school in South Carolina offered me a 50 percent scholarship (Coker College), two junior colleges offered me full rides, and then one D3 school, Endicott College, offered me a 75 percent scholarship. My dumb ass decided to come to Flagler, because my best friend from home was coming to Flagler, to try and walk on.”
Correia says although he had been in contact with head coach Bo Clark, he was not guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Correia says he had a poor tryout and he didn’t make the team.
“I was in my own head,” said Correia. “I was saying, the coaches want to see you do all the little things, not play your game.
“If I could go back, I’d do it differently.”
Correia said Clark told him to come back.
“He offered me the manager spot but I had too much pride at that point he my life.”
Correia describes the next two years as a bit of a dark period, the first time since the age of 14 that he wasn’t fully immersed in organized basketball.
He says the most difficult challenge was transitioning between lining up against NBA-caliber players like Samardo Samuels of the Bermudian national team, and within that same year, failing to make the Flagler College team.
“It was kind of like, wait a minute, this doesn’t add up,” says Correia.
But he overcame his troubles. He got involved in the pick-up basketball scene at Flagler while coaching Amateur Athletic Union basketball and recreational league ball.
The experience gave him an idea that became the next step in his basketball journey.
Once he completed sports management courses at Flagler, Correia said needed an internship to finalize his degree.
“I called my connect, IMG,” says Correia. “I said, hey, I need an internship. They said come on down. You can be a summer coach for us.
“I did the summer of coaching and it turned in to a full time job. They offered me a position as the video coordinator, and one of the JV assistants. I was the video coordinator of all nine teams. And then halfway through the year they promoted me and I got to do the head of NBA scouts scheduling stuff.”
Among his duties: Working with such players as Iman Shumpert, Amare Stoudemaire and Mo Harkless.
“It was crazy for me the experience, like why are you listening to me? You’re about to go to the NBA and you’re listening to little old Adam from Bermuda.
“The coolest thing I did there was help Jimmy Butler with his jump shot. The coach, who was my old coach, said all right, take this program, go into the film room, find out what Jimmy’s doing wrong. I got to analyze the film, go over it all, I wrote a full report on it and it helped him,” said Correia.
At this point, Correia says things were lining up perfectly for him, all except for his visa problem.
Back at Menendez, the fourth quarter went much like the third. The subs played the majority of the last few minutes. The game was already decided. Menendez stomped NFEI. Final score: 67–37.
“What’s the next step in my visa process?” Correia asked. “I don’t want to end up having to go home. I have to apply for this next visa.”
That visa is the H1-B visa, which Correia says would allow him to remain in the United States as long as he is employed.
“April 1st comes along and my boss finally gives me an approval. April 1st is the deadline. I literally ran to HR, said look he just approved me, can I get this in now. She’s like no, there’s no way you can get this in by 3, it’s 2 right now. Missed the deadline by literally a couple hours.
“At that point I had to think about it, sh-t, I’m not going to be here. My life had literally lined up perfectly, until that moment, and then I was like sh-t, I don’t know what to do now.
“I played ball, I did college, I coached, I got my job, I want to be in this career path, and now everything is being taken away from me like that.”
Correia says his only option at that point to stay in the country was to reenroll at Flagler, and complete his business degree.
Another IMG connection was able to keep Correia in basketball, this time in the form of the junior varsity head coaching job at Menendez.
Correia likes the job and is on pace to complete his second degree from Flagler, but he says U.S. citizenship is his main goal.
To get that, he needs the elusive H-1B visa that cost him his job at IMG.
“If you put all your paperwork in, even if you’re approved for the H-1B, you still have to get picked in a lottery out of all the people who are approved,” says Correia.
He refuses to let this obstacle dampen his enthusiasm for the U.S.
“The way I see it, if I go back home, my goal will always be to come back here and work in basketball. Somehow, some way.
“I’m trying just to stay in the country. If I can stay in the country I know I can go up the coaching ladder, with college or anything. Especially with all the people I’ve met and the stuff I know now. Over the years from playing at IMG to not making the team at Flagler to coaching at IMG to now coaching my own little JV team, my basketball knowledge has done nothing but grow over these years.”

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