04/21/2015 8:17 AM
By: Canaan Cadwell
Building character through athletics is the mission for Stephon Leary.
As he has grown the Shooting Stars grassroots program he relied on past expertise in finding his players and has since learned that installing basketball fundamentals to some of the best athletes in Greater Houston is bruising business.
Leary finds the majority of his players in the Katy (TX) area but where many jostle for the most talented kids the coach looks for opportunities to teach.
"I don’t really recruit the top prospects in the state,” Leary said. "Developing and training to maximize my kid’s potential is the number one goal.”
Shooting Stars started in 2011 with three teams. Currently he has seven boys and four girls teams ranging from 7th-12th grade -- the team website is here.
Each is working hard to achieve success on the court and opportunity to advance to the next level.
“My teams have been very competitive,” Leary said. "Around 20 kids are playing ball at the collegiate level.”
Gathering the top talent – which Leary says damages coaching the basic principles of basketball – embodies a culture that some may find cutthroat but synonymous with AAU basketball.
Having a deep understanding the game Leary comes from a coaching background and also experienced time as a player.
"I have been blessed to coach on the high school and college level for 22 years,” he said. “I have seen the change and transition of basketball. AAU is good only if the program teaches the kids how to play the game correctly. The game of basketball should not cheat the system by individualism.
"Programs that teach the principles of the game to their players should be praised.”
One player does not lead a program like Shooting Stars.
That defeats the purpose of their motto: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Everyone on the team is playing a role within the dynamic of the program.
“We teach our players movement on and off the ball, and ball movement in and out of reaction,” Leary said. “Man-to-man is our primary defense, but we mix it up with full-court press and half-court traps, too.”
Drawing a recruiting radius around Katy, Leary is currently coaching players from Seven Lakes, Mayde Creek, Katy, Katy Taylor, and Morton Ranch high schools.
“My Morton Ranch kids, Brandon and Chris Robbins, are some talented players,” Leary said. “We also have several good guards. Class of 2016, 6-foot guard Derrick Godley from Katy has a lot of talent. Point guard Bryson Johnson played well in the H-town Classic that the 17U Red won the gold. 16U Drew Bulawa from Seven Lakes is another one.”
The Shooting Stars organization teaches basketball the right way, in every aspects of the game. Team basketball is the first ingredient for Leary but he also has an eye for young talent.
He thinks that the program has a freshman on the rise.
Jackson McClurg is a 6-foot-1 guard out of Seven Lakes and is currently ranked 53 on RCS Sports for Greater Houston’s Top 90 freshmen.
Dane Geddes -- another freshman -- lead his JV team at Taylor in scoring and Leary thinks that he will grow within the Shooting Stars organization.
With a top to bottom emphasis on fundamentals Leary may not be the stereotype in the grassroots basketball scene.
He has been a part of every aspect in the game and at the highest level. It is his past experience that he believes will help push his program forward.
"I saw the NBA heading to a wrong direction," he said. “I did some NBA agent work and wanted to get back to training kids. It is about helping kids and building a team. My goal is getting these kids to the college level.”