TC Basketball's John Casale and Steven Barber
Sure, Steve Barber knew there were talented female basketball players in Texas, but he was so busy honing his own skills, those two hoops worlds seemed unlikely to cross paths.
Barber starred at the high school level in San Antonio, played three years at UT-Arlington and earned NBA training camp slots with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks while also playing in the D-League. Around 2010, he was in Houston and pondering his next step, and some interesting things started to happen as he worked out with some NBA players.
Read below for details – today, Barber runs three high-achieving girls teams (17u, 16u, 15u) through the Texas Flight program, and an impressive group of players have gone through his system, including:
Brianna Turner (Notre Dame)
Corina Carter (New Mexico)
London Clarkson (Florida State)
Joanne Allen-Taylor (Texas)
Mikayla Woods (UT-San Antonio)
Barber stopped by the Triple Crown home office in mid-December to scheme some plans for 2019.
Q: How did professional basketball treat you?
A: There were only so many spots in the NBA, especially me coming from a smaller school. You had to claw your way to a spot – it was interesting, and it was hard. So many trying to get to that next level, it wasn’t team-oriented like the sport should be, and it was more of a showcase situation.
Q: How did you get started coaching girls basketball?
A: I never thought I would ever coach girls. Being a guy, playing with the guys on the playground, coming back to coach guys, that was how I thought. One of my good friends back then was (WNBA legend) Tina Thompson.
I was getting together with some of my NBA friends, James Posey, Maurice Taylor, just passing the ball around, and we were thinking, hey that was a pretty good workout. They said, you know Tina lives in Houston, you should give her a call. I did, told her to come by these workouts I’m doing with some NBA guys, she said, OK. She got in the workouts, liked it and said she had some WNBA friends … four or five of them joined it, and they loved it.
I started training them for a couple months, and then one thing led to another. A tall, skinny girl, an eighth grader was in the gym, and her dad said, do you train high schoolers? I said, not really, but I said if she thinks she can hang … she jumped in, and she was really good. I didn’t know how this was going to go. Once I had success with her, kids like Jordan Hosey (who played three years at Texas) and Jaelyn-Richard Harris (LSU) … all the girls started coming. We started training, and next thing I know I’m coaching AAU. After eight years, going on nine, I’ve had 60 girls play in college, some going on to the pros.
Q: What are some of the fundamental philosophies you express to your players and families?
A: First thing for me is grades. I don’t consider myself an AAU coach, I consider myself al life skills coach. Life skills through the game. I have a lot of underprivileged kids I work with; for the most part the game is not going to make you life-changing money, so they have to have a skill to succeed in whatever they want to do.
Q: What’s your opinion of the shape of girls basketball today?
A: It’s growing in some ways. Now, you have a mass of trainers, development guys, and they are not as qualified as they should be. You can make money, get kids, get parents to pay you … but as a whole, it’s just about getting money. You make $100 an hour training a bunch of kids, that’s pretty good for someone with no real experience. And there are so many uneducated parents, and they won’t do their homework on who’s training their kid. The product is becoming weaker. When I started, it was more concentrated on the kids, and the playing level was high. You watch kids now, they may have a trainer now, but they don’t seem to have the skills they’ve invested for.