Program Founder & Director
Michael H. Weinstein has been in the basketball world from almost the very beginning of his time. As a young child he gravitated to the game shooting in the back yard. It was just him, his ball, his hoop and his great imagination and dreams. Over the years, he used basketball to keep himself on a positive track in life. Basketball helped him overcome many adversities. It taught him never to give up and always strive to do better. The game has meant and been a huge part of his life. No matter what has been going on….basketball has been his sanctuary. And with that said, he wants to help others fulfill their dreams and give them the tools to be successful and reach their potential in the not only in the game of basketball, but in the game of life.
As a young child he had meningitis and his parents were told he’d never play competitive sports. He worked with a gymnastic coach to learn balance and in the back yard he played basketball. He was a manager for his school basketball team in 7th and 8th grade. Coach Weinstein was the last player to make the team. He never let any of those setbacks discourage his dreams. In high school, Coach Weinstein made Frosh A team only to be back on B team due to production.....then Soph year he went from the bench to his position as a starter. However, his starting position was on Highland Parks’ worst Varsity team of all time, with a record of 1-23. Despite this challenge, he was determined to fulfill the philosophy of “keep getting better no matter what.” He ended up leading the Highland Park 1988 team to a CSL Conference Title. His love of basketball taught him many life lessons, including hard work through great preparation and holding himself accountable every day to help his team have success. Recruited by small schools and with little information on how many great opportunities there were to play at the collegiate level, he decided to go to University of Missouri. He tried out to be a walk-on and a practice player for a great Missouri team, which featured several future professional players and won the Big Eight Title in 1990. Coach Weinstein graduated with a Psychology Degree and went on for a Masters of Psychology from National Lewis University with an emphasis on children, planning to help youngsters stay positive in the midst of life’s challenges. He shares his game experience so others know he has been at the bottom, the middle and with the top tier players in the country. His playing days gave him great rewards through friendships, team accomplishments and the ability to travel the world. Coach Weinstein played Maccabi games, on exhibition teams and made many great contacts thru the game. After only being a practice player, he had the chance to transfer and follow his dreams his junior year when he was recruited by several D2 schools. In retrospect, he didn't take that leap and looking back that is where he developed his belief that "you should turn every stone before you give up your dream." Coach Weinstein was always coaching, from his childhood as the oldest of four, to working basketball camps in high school and college. He was always a mentor to his teammates and to younger players coming up. Out of college, he volunteered at his alma mater coaching varsity basketball, in Highwood small fry, junior high ball in Glencoe Central, and working camps. He also created the Highland Park Feeder program for junior high boys living in the district. The Jr. Giant program served to introduce players to the high school program, and incorporated drills, meet-the-coaches, and developed the passion to be a “GIANT.” From there Coach Weinstein created his first basketball endeavor, Joy of the Game. The program was rooted in his desire to keep young kids playing and developing no matter their skill level. He created Joy of the Game because, like his experience, many kids were not developing in the game he loved and being discouraged to play basketball. So in 1993 at Highlight Park, Joy of the Game opened its doors. His first camp had 27 participants, then grew to 44, and then numbered in the hundreds. JG grew at a rapid rate, including kindergarten to 8 th grade boys and girls who worked on skills and game action in the ultra positive atmosphere. Joy of the Game developed over seventeen years to become a mainstay in top coaching and development for young athletes. Under Coach Weinstein, Joy of the Game became one of the first and most successful sports facilities in the area, encompassing premier events, camps, leagues, charity events, parties, bar mitzvahs, exposure for collegiate players and also housed top programs in soccer, volleyball, physical therapy, weight training, marital arts and a custom uniform company. The building even housed a one-of-a-kind Nike store, and featured visits from Kobe Bryant and other Nike athletes. Coach Weinstein also developed two baseball facilities which followed top quality programming standards. Joy of the Game averaged close to a half a million visitors a year. Coach Weinstein’s passion for helping others led him to create the JG Foundation in 2000, with a mission to help kids in need. Every year he raised money so others without the means to do so could participate in JG programs. He also held outreach programs and camps at schools to spread his positive message. He also invested time in raising money for local and national causes, and helped several programs by donating facility time. Within the Joy of the Game corporation, Coach Weinstein created an additional program called Rising Stars in 1996. This program emphasized teaching players how to play as a team and compete against the best. It was also his means to prepare players for college and help his players reach the next level (whether it be Division 1, 2, 3, NAIA, etc.). Coach Weinstein has always loved that great team basketball and personal sacrifice can give a group of individuals great success. His teams became nationally recognized for their tremendous fundamental style of play, ability to win at a high rate, and to prepare players for a college-level understanding and knowledge of the game. His teams have been very successful in major events such as AAU Nationals, Kentucky Hoop Fest, King James, Nike Showcases, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois State AAU Final 4 ten straight years. In his last eleven years, Coach Weinstein has sent 257 athletes to compete in college athletics ranging from Division 1 to Division 3. In 2011, Coach Weinstein felt the time was right to pass the torch and sell Joy of the Game to keep its legacy alive and growing. The change allotted him time to focus on his family, friends and his physical/mental health. He also got the chance to watch his players in action all around the country. It made him feel like a proud father, to watch so many of his players achieve success at a variety of colleges and universities. He also had the chance to visit with many of his friends in the collegiate level and watch practice, preparations, games, reviews and assessments of players, strategies and production. He was back in his former atmosphere of coaching! He got an itch to coach and compete again, and to want to be in the gym! He was able to observe the best in the profession at some of the best colleges, both large and small. In 2012, he created Fundamental University which consisted of nine players, seven upcoming seniors and two upcoming juniors. His love of practice, mentorship and competition flourished again! Quickly the team became recognized for his past teams’ same principals. It also validated Coach Weinstein and reminded him why he coaches and loves the game: his desire to help others play the game right and help them chase their dreams. Of the seven seniors, five have committed to play for Division 1 teams and two have several opportunities to play at other schools. And the upcoming juniors are ready to be leaders. “This opportunity was one of the best and needed things in my life!” Coach Weinstein said. He had the time to work with great players and their families, who were all on the same page. Now he hopes to replicate that experience for others and himself. “I am not looking to create some business model for pay to play; there are plenty out there. This is a program not for the masses, but for those who understand a high commitment level, hard work and an honest environment. I believe this will give you the chance to be your best!” Through 2012, Coach Weinstein has returned to training both pro and college players to upcoming and current high school players. His players are having great success this year, so much so that he is inspired to work with others to follow successful paths. Fundamental U has produced and amazing Percentage of college basketball players. In in 8 years over 100 kids to play college basketball. Many having very successful Careers at all levels. Check out his alumni page which he is truly proud of helping in development not only as players but adults. To mentor so many outstanding people is what keeps him going in his passion helping others. In 2019 Fundamental U was the only 17u team from Illinios nationally ranked with its incredible run of beating highly ranked teams all over the country. They took 3rd in the UA rise and his 17u Playground team took third in UA association. In 2020 during a pandemic he still ran a high end trading camp with game action and is getting his players still into college basketball. Coach Weinstein in addition still runs the very successful High Academic Showcase running for student athletes college exposure! He also runs several events including the top high school fall league in Illinios....let’s play hoops. In 2021 after Covid Coach Weinstein Fundamental Teams had an amazing season and were featured in the Chicago Tribune for their success beating National Grass Root Teams including upsetting the #1 team in the country! Also in 2021 Coach Weinstein has been selected as the Head Coach for the 16u National USA 🇺🇸 Boys Basketball team for Maccabi Games in Israel 🇮🇱 summer 2022. He is also excited to be working with the 18u team and Head Coach Matthew Malc. In 2022 Coach Weinstein selected to be THE NORTH Head Coach for The Stephen Curry Underrated Tour Event in Oakland California. Special event for 40 young men from across the country the opportunity to compete and gain visibility on a national stage! He coached his Team North on to win the Inaugural Championship!
UA Rise – Head Coach – Class of 2026
Entering his 6th year in the FundamentalU program, Coach Sotos spent two seasons as the head coach for our 17u UA Rise teams before becoming Assistant Director for our program. Christian has quickly established himself as a premier & highly sought after resource for player development in the Chicagoland area, having served as a primary trainer & recruiting aid for dozens of D1, D2, D3, & high school basketball players over the past 5 years, including Nick Martinelli (Northwestern), Bryce Moore (Niagara), Jackson Munro (Dartmouth), Dom Martinelli (St Thomas), Ryan Duncan (Princeton), Jackson Kotecki (Miami OH), Daniel Hong (North Dakota), Ryan Renfro (Army/Lewis), Orlando Thomas (Quincy), Yogi Oliff (WashU), Nathan Boldt (IL Wesleyan), Henry Vetter (Trinity U), & Jimmy Sotos (Bucknell/Ohio St). Over the past 2 years Christian has also served as a secondary resource in the gym with numerous NBA, overseas, & high major athletes.
Director of Recruiting/Scouting
UA Rise – Head Coach – Class of 2025
Dantea Johnson is a young man willing to serve and helps kids reach their full potential like his coaches did growing up. Johnson attended Evanston Township High school and graduated in 2018. Playing football all four years and competed in wrestling and track and field his freshman year. In 2016 he joined the Evanston boy’s basketball coaching staff and never looked back. In the last 4 years since he's been on staff, they've compiled 116 wins, 4 consecutive conference titles, 4 regional championships, 4 sectional championships, 2 super-sectional championships, and 2 final fours. Through his years at Evanston, he's mentored and worked with Malcolm Townsel (Holy Cross), Lance Jones (Southern Illinois), Louis Lesmond (Harvard), Blake Peters (Princeton). In the summer of 2019, he transferred from West Virginia University to Loyola University Chicago, pursuing a degree in public relations with a double minor in economics and political science. While at Loyola he also works with the men’s basketball team in several different capacities under head-coach Porter Moser. In summation, Dantea Johnson has earned a reputation as a personable, hard-working, driven, engaging, trustworthy individual who strives to excel and stays dedicated to what he is passionate about.
UA Rise – Head Coach – Class of 2027
Currently the Assistant Varsity Coach at New Trier High School. Previously, he was assistant Varsity at Taft and had coached at Glenbrook North with the feeder program and varsity program for the last 9 years. Played college basketball at North Park University in Chicago, IL
Youth Program Director
We are pleased to welcome our Youth Program Director for Fundamental U. Neil Fraser to the team! Neil has been coaching youth basketball for the past five and a half years. He brings knowledge and energy to the team and is eager to learn. He’s played a major role in feeder programs across the northwest suburbs including the Mundelein and Fremd feeder programs. Neil has also been coaching regional and elite level high school AAU teams for the duration of his coaching career. Neil has played a major role in AAU programs around the Lake County area. He’s trained, and continues to train some of the top players in the Lake County area. Neil will be working with all aspects of the program at Fundamental U. Beyond coaching Neil has played the role of a program director, tournament director, summer camp coordinator, ran social media, and more. He’s been involved with all ages within the game of basketball and is a valuable asset to the team.
17u National Team Head Coach
Luke Norcia has spent the last three years as an assistant coach at the NCAA Division 3 level at UW-La Crosse and Lake Forest College. The entire 2 years Coach Norcia was on staff at UW-La Crosse they were ranked 19th or better in the National d3hoops.com Top 25. He is currently the top assistant at Lake Forest College, where he is responsible for the defense as well as recruiting and opponent scouting. Luke played 4 years of college basketball at Wisconsin-La Crosse where his team achievements included tying the school record for wins in a season, winning a WAC league title for the first time in 51 years, and making the D3 NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years. He graduated as the only player in school history to have accomplished all 3 feats. As a senior, he was named 1st team all defense in the WIAC, where he shot 43% from the 3 point line and led the team in assists and steals.
Brent Abas joined the Fundamental U coaching staff in Spring 2022. Currently he is the Varsity Assistant Coach at Maine West High School. He spent his previous 8 seasons (2014-2022) as a Freshman Head/Varsity Assistant Coach at Niles North High School. Brent is looking forward to continue assisting athletes on and off the court with Fundamental U.
16u UA Rise Asst Coach
Bobby Savich joined Fundamental U in March 2021. Bobby coached at Lincoln-Way East High School from 2010-2013 and again from 2016-2019, helping lead the Griffins to back-to-back 20 win seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18. He was part of East’s 2018 IHSA regional title, the first in school history. For the past 3 years Bobby has been an assistant at Bosco Institute with their post grad program, helping send two dozen student-athletes to college basketball, including 14 at the Division 1 level. Bobby graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in broadcast journalism.
Youth Program Asst Director
Throughout my 27-year basketball coaching career I have served at almost every single level of basketball which includes: Division 1 College Manager, Youth Park District Coach, Feeder Program Director, Feeder Coach, AAU Coach, High School Freshmen Coach, High School Sophomore Coach, High School Varsity Assistant Coach, and High School Head Varsity Coach. As an assistant coach, I served under three IBCA Hall of Fame Coaches. During my tenure I was part of six regional championships, three holiday tournament championships, 2 conference championships, and two “Sweet 16” appearances in the IHSA state tournament. At the college level, I served as a manager at Illinois State University, where I was a member of back-to-back regular season conference and MVC tournament championships. In 1997-98, we spent time in the AP Top 25 and advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. I am graduate of Illinois State University where I earned my degree in Business Education. Later I earned my Master’s Degree in Counseling at Northeastern Illinois University. Along with coaching, I am a business education teacher at Deerfield High School. I currently reside in Park Ridge with my wife, Melinda and our four children: Benjamin (13), Dylan (11), Samuel (9) and Jacob (7).
Began coaching at Grade School level as a favor to a friend from 2004-2009. Named IBCA middle school coach of the year 2008. Started off as Frosh coach at NDCP 2010-2013. Had the opportunity to move up and work as a varsity assistant in 2014 until present. Have been fortunate to work with many great people and players. Really enjoy watching young players fall in love with the game and their pursuit of success in both basketball and life.