Italee Lucas is a former North Carolina Tarheel Women’s Basketball player, and she was also the 21st pick by the Tulsa Shock in the 2011 WNBA draft. She now plays overseas for the Angolan Women’s National Basketball team. Lucas has quite a few accolades under her belt, but now she can also add successful investor to that list.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with her to understand how she began investing and what she has learned about the process by working with the experts.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
AfroTech: When you were drafted into the WNBA, did they have anything in place to teach rookies about personal finance?
Italee Lucas: They didn’t, and that’s one of the things I’m even talking to my agent about now. I did end up changing agents three times, and I think it’s important for the agents, especially for the women, coming out to be partnered with either a financial advisor or some type of additional capitalist. When I first came out, I had to seek that advice myself outside of my parents. So right off the bat, coming out of college — no, that wasn’t something that was a part of the package.
AT: Would you say a lot of different women in the WNBA seek that information?
IL: I can’t speak for different women. I know for me personally that was always a factor that was important to me. Not only just for the material aspects of it but as far as financial freedom and making sure I’m handling my money correctly. So, I hope they’re seeking for it. I hope that’s something that’s on top of the list because it’s extremely important. Like I said, not just for the material things, but just for taking care of yourself and taking care of your family, it’s extremely important.
AT: Since you’ve been a professional athlete, what principles have you had to instill in yourself or teach yourself about finance?
IL: Just growing up, especially I think coming from the culture that we’re in, my dad is African American and my mom — she’s Japanese and African American. I was always taught to save, but not how to save. So, I think coming out of college, that’s something that I sought. I did, fortunately, have a savings, but how am I gonna save? Where am I gonna invest? How do I even get involved in investing? That is something I had to teach myself.
What’s most important — before all that even happens — is to know the best thing you can invest in is yourself, as far as education, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. That’s the best investment overall. Coming from that, then I feel you’ll acquire everything else, and the people that you’ll need on your side and the team that you manifest. So, that’s first and foremost, that’s the best investment that I’ve ever done, was on myself. Following that, I did have to reach out to people. Once somebody caught my eye, I had to do my due diligence and research them and not just reach out to everybody, because everyone’s not gonna have your best interest at heart. I feel like you’ll be able to be intuitive once you’re closer with yourself to be able to seek those people out that are really for you.
AT: What was the vetting process for you as far as finding somebody to trust to work with to either teach you or work with your investments?
IL: It was definitely a process. Before I started reaching out to people, I wrote out my goals. I wrote out a number I wanted to see in the next five years. I did those things by myself, so first I wrote down the goals that I had. I wrote down what type of investments that I want to get involved in. I wrote out…man, I could tell you about five journals of just writing and writing. *laughs* Sometimes, it didn’t even make sense, but it’s all a process you know, where to start. I reached out to different big companies like Sequoia and things like that; but something about those big companies didn’t feel right either. I wanted something a little more intimate, and this is where Rashaun came into place and Manhattan Venture Partners. I read up on him, and what he was doing for the culture, for athletes and entertainers. I look at him more as a coach, and a lot of times I think that works, because we are, especially athletes, prone to be a team and to be coached, so he will run plays to follow through with that. So, through that process I did come across Rashaun and everything about him and what he stood for, it just resonated with me. So, I had a good feeling about it and went with him on a few deals, just been going from there.
AT: That actually was my next question, how did you find him? I know other women athletes like Cappie Pondexter and Asjha Jones both work with him. Would you say you’ve been able to learn from them as well as Rashaun?
IL: I would definitely say Cappie for me personally. Cappie was actually the one who connected us together. We played against each other in the WNBA, so she was the first person that I did reach out to and asked her questions. So, she connected us together, then I had a chance to speak with Rashaun and his team. Then, when he came out to L.A., I had a chance to sit down with him, and like I said, it just felt really comfortable, and he just felt genuine like he was really here to help.
AT: He definitely seems passionate about what he does and he definitely seems like he really wants the athletes to learn so, I think that’s the most important thing.
IL: It is one thing for people to have whatever on their page, so I was like, ‘Okay, well I need to look you eye to eye.’ He exuded everything that he preached and he’s an awesome guy.
AT: Is there anything that you wish you knew about money or investing prior to entering the WNBA or even going overseas?
IL: My biggest mindset was save to invest. I know a lot of times we hear ‘save-save-save your money’ but we’re not really taught how. I do wish I had the whole idea to save to invest and to continue to flip that money; and once that’s invested, put it into something else. Do your due diligence, do all your research. Don’t just put it into anything, but the biggest thing is to save to invest.
AT: When you were overseas, did that affect your ability to invest in anything? Were there any barriers there, or was it pretty straightforward because your home base was in the U.S.?
IL: That’s a good question! I think there was pros and cons, especially me and how my personality is, just speaking on my end. I think overseas gave me the opportunity just to kind of sit down and learn for myself. I’m huge on reading and everything. I had so much time after practice and after games to research, to study, to read, so I used my time wisely in that space. As far as really being able to put my money into something, I wasn’t able to do that until I was back in America, because I wanted to sit down with the people that I’m working with, and see them face-to-face, eye-to eye. While I was out there I did use that time wisely but not as far as being able to put my money into something because I handle that situation a little differently. I just used that time to do my research and learn. So, that’s how I used that time while away.
AT: Your approach is very respectable and commendable, because I know some people may just be like, “Oh, here’s some money, do whatever.”
IL: Right, no. I would like to know the ins and out of everything and that’s what I’m learning as well now. I want to know the ins and out as much as possible so that one day I’ll be able to run it completely by myself if that’s the case. I don’t want to just hand my money over and trust with just anybody. I want to be involved with the process as well.
AT: To go off that, is there any advice that you’d give to young millennials or new athletes coming into their profession as far as finance or investing goes?
IL: In this day in age there’s so much information out there. While people spend countless hours scrolling on social media for just pointless information, in this day in age and this period of life you can be an expert for yourself. The information is out there, I would just encourage them to take the chance to learn about finance and get involved. At the end of the day it is exciting when you see your money working for itself; because at the end of the day whatever sport you’re in is not gonna be there forever. So, I would tell them just to learn, learn as much as possible and allow your money to work for you and allow whatever sport you’re in to be vehicle to reach others, to reach your family, and to just increase your life.
AT: OK, good advice! Would you go back in the community at all, once you’re involved and once you kind of been well-versed in the investment space, would you go into the different communities and teach about investing?
IL: I am a little more introverted, so my approach isn’t gonna be probably like on a huge platform per se. However, everybody that I do connect with and contact, they’re definitely going to hear it. I’ll do little subtle approaches here and there, I have done little panels here and there, but I am more of an introvert, so my approach is gonna be a little different. But the word is definitely gonna be shared once we sit down and have an actual conversation.
I can definitely tell Lucas is true to herself and a very genuine person from our conversation. We can all take heed to her advice to invest in self first, to make sure those around you are genuine, and to truly learn with all the information there is available to understand before seeking to invest. The rest will fall in place as long as YOUR intentions are good.
This piece originally appeared on Melanin Investor.
Carmela Hawkins, Founder of Melanin Investor, is a licensed financial services professional. She inspires and educates minority millennials and youth on the importance of investing to create a life of financial freedom by highlighting the financial stories of professional athletes.