ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Retired NBA star, and St. Louis-native Larry Hughes walked into the gym and saw nearly 50 young athletes running sideline-to-sideline practicing their power-dribbles and crossovers. Many wearing a patch on their shirt with the D1 STL United Basketball logo, a brand created by Hughes.
That 6:30 p.m. session at The Principia in Town and Country is just of half of the group that he’ll work with that night.
“It’s fun. I have to be honest with you, when you walk into the gym and there is a packed house of athletes working on their development.”
D1 STL United is 300-plus athletes strong and in it’s third year of teaching basketball to local youth from 8-years-old up through high school.
“We want good people to join our organization,” Hughes says. “And obviously we want to work with them so we are putting even better citizens back into the community.”
Which meant bringing in some of the best coaches in the country. One of those being Jayson Wells as the director of skill development. He was an All-Missouri Valley Conference player at Indiana State University from 1994-1998, then continued to play basketball for 12 years as a professional all over the world. He’s played in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Israel, Korea, Holland, Italy, Ukraine, Dubai, Argentina and Australia.
Then as recently as last year, he was training some of the top high school players in the country with Nike Elite 100. But after being set up by a mutual friend, Wells and come over to work with Hughes’ new program.
“I think he came in, in a good situation,” Hughes says. “Because I feel like I have great credibility in this town. So if I’m able to introduce someone I’ve done my homework on them.
“And I only want the best for my city and community.”
Wells is in charge of the six different skills and drills practices each week, which are focused on not just developing talented players, but also building confident people.
“Larry and I are very much on the same page, to where even a couple weeks ago he mentioned we are starting to finish each other’s sentences and things like that. So the synergy amongst the relationships we’ve built in a really short time has been awesome.”
Both Wells and Hughes say they both take a lot the things they learned from their playing days and are using it everyday in D1’s programming.
“We know from being there and having great coaches and great teachers and great role models growing up,” Wells says. “We know what that feels like and what that looks like.”
For Hughes, it feels ever more personal he says becuase he came from the same area that these kids are growing up. He says it’s about building a ‘championship attitude.’
“And they are getting it everyday,” Hughes says. “And they are starting to believe and think and act as winners.”
And now that Hughes is back full-time in St. Louis, he’s able to also stop by other programs, like his alma mater — CBC. He said when he heard last year that the boys basketball team had multiple players sign with division 1 programs, he made a visit.
“They were kind of feeling themselves a little bit, but it’s all in fun,” Hughes says. “It’s all to prepare them you know for that next level when everyone is at their level.”
Now Hughes says all that’s left for D1 STL United, is to grow.
“We know that we have a good product here,” Hughes says. “That’s based on the fundamental goals of each human, that’s to be successful, understand your value, and be successful. And that’s what we feel like we’re doing here.”
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