MO’ MOTION MONDAY: About four years ago it was a regular business-as-usual Sunday in the Gotham Basketball Association. The Milbank Flyers had beaten us by at least 40 points even after dropping back and playing all of their subs. Yet what was most memorable that season was being able to create a dialogue with some of the girls who started the league with us in 2010. This was a first.
Nobody in Harlem believed that I actually played ball, so it was always interesting to see how people would react when I offered the more talented kids gym time to train and I said that I know several college coaches.
I said I would help them out – all they had to do is reach out.
They all looked at me like the nice, but crazy white lady.
That’s when I started to talking to Autumn Truesdale and her mother Stephanie Howze, who, like Autumn’s dad, Troy, played college ball. What was notable was that Stephanie took me up on my offers to have Autumn come into our gym space any time of year and train with our coaches. I told Autumn that at her exact age somebody came up to me and told me exactly what I didn’t what I wanted to hear, and I was going to say the same words to her, but only if she wanted to hear it.
“A boys’ high school coach walked by me in an open gym, stopped, and said, ‘If you ever want to be a real player,’ you’d better learn how to shoot.’”
I told her that this man made me so miserable for the next two weeks that I actually did what he told me to do. He told me to shoot one boring drill for two weeks standing 5-7 feet from the basket. For some reason, what this man said gnawed at me so much that I did the drill for hours on end.
I saw him two weeks later.
“Good,” he said, “Now take one step back and do the same drill for another two weeks.”
And that is what I did. I never saw this coach again. My dad actually saw him at a bar last year and I was so mad that my dad didn’t thank him because in less than 10 minutes, he changed my career.
I told Autumn, “You need to rip apart your shot and start all over.”
Autumn’s mom leaned for the next few months, but it was tough with her AAU schedule. It’s also tough when your AAU team is the Gauchos and you’re playing the NYC press, trap, chuck, board, mow people down, get the ball and repeat. There’s little time or need to work on the mechanics of a jump shot when you are pressing the mess out of a team, getting steals and lay-ups. When you’re winning by 40 points on lay-ups, who needs to shoot?
But sure enough, end of August rolled around and Autumn stopped by my office. I took her outside to show her what I saw – a Big Ten body shooting a JV jumpshot.
I brought the photos back into my office and opened up the files. Autumn’s jaw dropped when she saw the photos.
“I’m going to change it,” she said.
Autumn Truesdale is our Mo’ Motion Spotlight story of the month. The reason why I picked Autumn is not only for her prowess as a dominant player who left NYC to pursue her dream. It’s also not because she (and her very supportive mother) structures every day, week and month around her basketball commitment. A lot of players go out every day and work out or game up or lift weights and give up several weeks of their summer to pursue their dream.
I’ll always be an Autumn fan because 1) she made one spot-on statement to Zach Light when I needed it most (read the story) and 2) Autumn changed when most other players would not have taken the risk.
Take a look at the before and after shots of where Autumn was that one day before entering high school and where her jump shot is now. Don’t think that she lifted her J just by hitting the gym. She changed her mechanics significantly.
Autumn spends most of her time in the gym, she does her reps, she trains to build and protect her body, and she regularly seeks ways to improve her game. Can’t tell you how many players I’ve tried to get to change – the vast majority will stick to what they think works until they realize too little too late that it’s always been broken.
I’ll get more live footage this summer of Autumn’s fully formed J. But for now, these few stills show her improvement. I also am not going to sit here and claim she’s a dead-eye shooter now and make sure I get all the credit when Autumn is the one who put in the work. What I’m most proud of is that a serious student-athlete made a change, got uncomfortable and saw it through.
Read about Autumn in our spotlight and give a shout out to any players or coaches who rose to the occasion and did what Autumn did in their commitment to excellence.