Now, McKinney is making it his mission to keep more students on the path to success.
"If you messed up with your grades, give me the transcripts and we might be able to fix it, get you in summer school. But there's no way for you to hide that, there's no way around it though. No books, no ball," McKinney said.
His message is clear and direct: No books/No ball. It's also the name of his organization, the No Books/No Ball Foundation.
Basketball is the draw. Some of these students see the sport as their one shot at success. But once McKinney pulls them in, he drills them with the importance of education.
"Nobody really has a class to teach you how to study. Nobody shows you time management before you go to college," McKinney said. "They want to go to college and they want to do well, they just really don't know how."
These students are mostly recent high school graduates who didn't have college opportunities. Through his "no books, no ball foundation," McKinney uses his classroom lessons to teach real world skills. He then works directly with junior colleges and universities to get the students enrolled and on a team.
It worked for Bobby Dixon. He says the coach helped him walk on at Kankakee Community College, where he earned a scholarship to a university. He now plays professionally in Italy.
"Bryan McKinney and the foundation had a lot to do with my success today," Dixon said. "When I graduated college, I graduated with a 3.0. In high school I was a 1.7 GPA. That just tells you how far I came in college than I was in high school."
Other students are hoping for a similar story.
"They sit down and they actually take time to talk to us about it. You know, a lot of kids don't have people to sit down and talk to them about how important school is and how much time and effort you actually have to put into it to get results out of it," Anthony Johnson said.
For some students, just having a safe place to go after school is also a reason to give praise.
"Bryan's a great guy. Bryan never charged a kid just to come. The stuff we learn is like priceless. He should be getting paid. He should be a billionaire. Bryan really changes a kid's life," Joshua Fowler said.
The No Books/ No Ball Foundation will host its first fundraiser, No Books/No Ball Community Power Summit, next Saturday, June 11, at the Gary Comer Youth Center. Will Packer, who produced films including "Takers" and "Stomp the Yard," will be there to talk to the students. Tickets to the event are $40. Get the event details online at nbnbfpowersummit.eventbrite.com or find out more about the foundation at www.nbnbf.org/