695HOOPS WHERE IT'S ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE GIRLS
Johnny Mack, coach and program director of the Maryland Lady Shooting Stars, took time out from his busy schedule to have a one on one chat with 695Hoops. We talked about the state of the game, the Shooting Stars program and a few other interesting topics.
695: Tell me about your coaching career...
Coach: I started coaching in the US Army and retired in 1995. I started attending my 9 year old daughter's recreation league games and she was asked by the Severn Bulls to join their AAU team. I was intrigued by the level of play, the travel and the competition so I started my own AAU org in 1998, the Lady Shooting Stars.
695: Did you play?
Coach: Yeah, high school, all Army Europe from 1977-1980 and Fort Meade post team from 1980 to 1985.
695: Tell me about the Shooting Stars organization...
Coach: We started in 1998 as I stated earlier. I am the current and only director. Walter Hagins is the basketball commissioner. We have won multiple AAU state championships, ranked 4th at D1 nationals, won the Nike USJN, Nike Midwest Nationals and a host of local tournaments. We have not had a team that did not qualify for AAU nationals during regional qualifiers and that includes our first year of existence.
We have been instrumental in helping student athletes move on to the next level (college). Our first player to obtain a college scholarship was in 2005 and every year since, we have been blessed to help kids get into a school of higher learning, while using basketball as a tool to get an education and become role model citizens. We are currently sponsored by Adidas grassroots basketball.
695: How do you feel about MD AAU in general?
Coach: MD AAU is where I started and I will always be loyal to it! I have to admit that I am not pleased with all the new changes. I preferred the pure age group system that was already in place. I do not like the idea that older kids can compete against younger kids based on their grade. This worked fine for the boys but girls should not follow boys. AAU has always been "pure" on the girls side of things as far as age grouping is concerned. AAU needs to stick to the age based divisions.
695: I guess the coaches could always choose to stick with the old rules but we'll see how that goes.
695: What do you think about the overall direction of girls basketball in the area?
Coach: Girls basketball in the area is still competitive but most of the teams are watered down. Everybody has one or two good players, but we have to go out and compete against state teams or regional teams. Obviously "exposure" has taken precedence over everything else which is good, but we should be able to come together as a region and put together top showcase teams from 13u to 17u and concentrate on having our kids from 8u-12u playing AAU with their club.
695: I agree, but it has been tried before and when it comes down to it people want to be out front or they will sabotage the effort. How do you get people to send their kids to play on another team without all hell breaking loose?
Coach: There are a few programs in the area that have taken the lead in this area but if a club doesn't have the resources or the funds to help their elite kids get the exposure that they deserve then they are doing the kid and the parent a disservice and the area also. There are only a few exposure periods during the year, we're talking about maybe 3 or 4 national tournaments and the rest of the time the kid stays with their club. I'm trying to put college level coaches in place along with the financial resources to get the Baltimore area kids to play on the biggest stages with the best girls we can put on one team.At this time the Adidas Team Maryland Elite Team is the only team that can attend some national tournaments that are invitational only.
But, moreso we want to establish our area and stop outside or out of state organizations from recruiting our girls when we can offer them the same or even better oportunities. Sorry I got long winded but this is something that has to be done if we want Baltimore to rise to the top in girls basketball!
695: I agree with your points but how do you answer people who will say if a kid can play the colleges will find them? Several kids from teams that are not considered "elite" or "national" have gotten scholarships to good schools recently.
Coach: This is true! Kids who are D1 players will eventually get picked up but there is also a chance they might get overlooked. While it is partly true that if a player has talent the coaches will find them, this is only true for a few who have unique attributes. And even still most of them receive exposure from the elite skills camp or some affiliation with AAU. College scouts often tell me they like to see how a kid competes with and against top players in the country. High school competition is great but high school teams are comprised of maybe 3 top tiered student-athletes. I'm basically talking about building an elite program for the betterment of girls basketball in the Baltimore area! Paving the way for female athletes in the area and you can see that there is a lot of interest in this area from the outside orgs that are coming in like Blue Star, Blue Chip and Boo Williams. Why are they not staying within their own states? It's because we are doing a better job of developing our girls, plain and simple.We have talent but once our girls reach the recruiting age we are allowing others to come in and reap the benefits. Yes, the kids eventually get the D1 scholarships but what about the area and the evolution of basketball in this area? Do we want it to die out? Sponsors and local resources will get behind us all the way!
695: What do you do besides coach?
Coach: Contrary to popular belief I'm a true man of God. I spend most of my time organizing coat and food drives in the winter. I help with men's shut in and retreats in the spring and summer. I visit the prisons and elderly homes and I've been singing with a dynamic male chorus group "CC Male Chorus" at Fort Meade Chapel center for the last 12 years.
695: How do you deal with the criticism that comes with doing what you do?
Coach: I believe in what I'm doing. I have a true passion for the kids. I've made it a point to always put the kids first in all of my decisions. I stick to the script. For me its about scholarships not trophies. I've been doing this so long that I've developed alligator skin.
695: What challenges are you facing with the organization?
Coach: We are putting together plans and resources for a sports complex in Anne Arundel county or Baltimore city.
We like to teach our kids to be Stars for life but it is becoming more difficult for with outside distractions and dishonest, unethical recruting practices.
695: What do you do to stay sharp and improve as a coach?
Coach: I study coaches from all levels and I also dialogue with other basketball junkies and attend a clinic or two.
695: What is your biggest pet peeve as a coach?
Coach: Practice. I tell my kids I'd rather have them miss a game than practice.
695: What's the last good concert you went to?
Coach: Frankie Beverly. Now that's my boy!
695: Thanks again.
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