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News & Press: FOCUS

Moneyball Makes His Mark

Sunday, October 1, 2017  
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Desmond Ferguson clearly remembers the day he became known as Moneyball.

The Lansing native had already established considerable notoriety as a basketball star. His reputation as a 3-point marksman was on full display one summer day during an AAU competition in Detroit. Desmond couldn’t miss, pouring in shots from seemingly every possible spot in the gym. Among the players wowed by Desmond’s talents that day were NBA stars Robert “Tractor” Traylor and Kevin Garnett. As Desmond made shot after shot, chants of “Moneyball” started to grow louder. The Moneyball moniker became Desmond Ferguson’s trademark as an athlete, and eventually with his growing business empire, now known as Moneyball Sportswear.

“That one day I was making shots from half court and every time the ball was in the air, they were yelling ‘Moneyball,’” said Ferguson. “That was the nickname I got and eventually when I was thinking of a name for my business, Moneyball was it.”

Young Desmond’s athletic career began with soccer and track. Football was actually his first love. However, it was on the basketball court where he eventually became an all-state player at Lansing Everett. After one year at the University of Missouri, Desmond transferred to Detroit Mercy where he led that team to two consecutive NCAA tournament berths. True to his Moneyball reputation, Desmond left Detroit as the all-time leading three-point shooter over a three-year period. He also graduated in 2000 with a degree in business administration.

Desmond went on to an 11-year pro career, mostly overseas and one year in the NBA. He played in 11 different countries and at one point played on a team coached by Lansing native and former MSU star Sam Vincent. Desmond also coached five years at his alma mater, Lansing Everett, stepping down after the 2017 season to spend more time with his family and his business.

The impact of sports and the great coaches for whom he has played, including Johnny Jones at Everett and Perry Watson at Detroit, have been enormous. He cites the learning experiences in a team atmosphere as being particularly beneficial in his business career.

“Sports taught me how to overcome adversity and the importance of a great work ethic and that carries over to business,” said Ferguson. “Sports teaches a lot of important life lessons.”

Johnny Jones said he was first impressed by Desmond’s work ethic that set him apart from others. In Desmond’s sophomore year, he was passed over by more talented players who were selected to go to a basketball camp. That setback served to motivate Desmond.

“He worked so hard on his game that within a year, he surpassed all those other players selected ahead of him,” said Jones. “His work ethic is very high. That’s a big reason why he ended up being the one receiving a college scholarship.”

Desmond’s roots as an entrepreneur began as a young man. He credits his mother, Patricia Ferguson-Bell, with encouraging him to develop a hair cutting business in the basement of her home. Just 12 years old when he started, Desmond made enough money to buy his first car at age 16.

During his pro career, Desmond began to think about life after his playing days. He had seen too many athletes uncertain of their future after sports, and in many case squandering their earnings. Desmond started his business in 2002 and took it full-time after his retirement from playing in 2011.

“Going back to the early days as a barber, I always knew I wanted to own something,” said Ferguson. “My first year overseas, I started to think about how I wanted to invest this money and the thought of doing basketball uniforms came to mind.”

Desmond had noticed since high school that basketball uniforms looked pretty much the same. He recognized a need in the market for customized uniforms. He started the company as a hobby, and eventually turned it into a full-fledged business now reaching various athletic teams around the world, branching out into multiple lines of sportswear, well beyond basketball and into other sports including football, soccer, hockey, softball, track, volleyball and others. Today, with a stated mission of taking athletic apparel to “the next level,” Moneyball Sportswear provides various kinds of athletic sportswear while specializing in custom made team uniforms - from simple to highly intricate.

“For the past two seasons, we have worked with Desmond Ferguson and Moneyball. For us, it was important to work with another local company,” said Jeremy Sampson, owner of Lansing United. “Desmond and his staff have been excellent to work with. They allow us to set ourselves apart from other soccer teams by allowing us the opportunity to create fully customizable uniforms. There isn’t another soccer team anywhere in the world that has uniforms like we do.”

“We have found that we can meet the market desire for quality, customized sportswear and sell it at prices below what others in the industry are charging,” said Ferguson. “We have also placed a high emphasis on customer satisfaction, which has led to consistent growth for our company.”

Moneyball Sportswear also recently announced a partnership with a new premier basketball tour which emerged in 2017 called the Powerade Platform. The nationwide tour consists of travel teams showcasing top Division I basketball talent to NCAA coaches during the key recruiting periods of April, May, and July. Events were held in D.C., Indianapolis, Nashville, and Charlotte. In addition, the tour provided individual skills camps and has big expansion plans for 2018. The Powerade Platform tour was founded in Detroit more than 15 years ago. Moneyball Sportswear will now be the sole and exclusive uniform and apparel provider for the Powerade Platform tour.

“In year two and beyond, we are looking forward to growing together with Moneyball Sportswear,” says Powerade Platform Tour owner and founder DeShawn Bean.

One of most rewarding parts of being a successful businessman has been the ability to give back to the community. Among his many endeavors, Desmond has produced a free basketball clinic for the past 14 years. He developed the basketball clinic to teach youth the importance of good physical conditioning, healthy eating habits, teamwork, good sportsmanship, selfdiscipline, and self-esteem. The free, three-day summer clinic puts many children’s aspirations in perspective. Ferguson and his team serve as mentors, providing insight on basketball and life skills.

“I believe if you have any kind of success, you should give back to where you came from,” said Ferguson. “That’s the fabric of who I am and who we are as a business.”

Perhaps the most visible community endeavor Ferguson has spearheaded is the annual Moneyball Pro Am, a summer basketball league at Aim High, featuring current and former college and pro players. Seeing the success of similar programs in Detroit and Flint, Desmond felt Lansing could support a similar program. After receiving support from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo, Desmond recruited college players from MSU, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Oakland universities. The program struggled in the early years, sometimes only having as few as 20 people in the stands. The decision to move the program from weekends to weeknights helped bolster attendance. Today, the highly successful Moneyball Pro Am enjoys standing room only crowds, many of whom want to get a sneak preview of star players who will lead the MSU basketball team in the coming season.

“The overall goal was just to have a good summer league that people could attend, because I feel that Lansing is a basketball city,” said Ferguson. “I remember Denzel Valentine and those guys he played with coming here as little kids, and now those guys are playing in the league and in some cases in pro ball. The league gives young people a chance to see college and pro players they look up to and hopefully gives them something to which they can aspire.”

Desmond has big aspirations for the continued growth of his company.

In the immediate future, he will open what he calls a pop-up store in the Meridian Mall. The store will be open from October through December. He remains open to the idea of a more permanent mall presence. Longer term, Desmond has it in his mind to be one of the largest athletic sportswear companies in the industry.

I want to compete with the big boys – the Nikes, Adidas and Under Armours of the world,” said Ferguson. “We want to continue to grow and think on a global scale. I want to be known as the number one sportswear company in the world.”

The combination of his entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and a value system that emphasizes a team approach and a commitment to giving back to the community have led Desmond Ferguson to considerable success in life. Those attributes should also ensure that Moneyball will continue to leave his mark in a very real and sustainable way in the years ahead.

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