Ex-WNBA player's hoops camp keeps bar high
Name: Monica Sheppard
Community Connection: Katy resident
Profession: CEO of Education-N-Hoops DBA
Fast Fact: When Sheppard's not on the basketball court, she's something of an amateur pool shark.
Former WNBA player and Katy resident Monica Sheppard knows a thing or two about how to reach the top of your game. "My father placed a basketball in my hands at age 3. I learned to shoot on a standard-size goal by the age of 4 with a regular-size ball," Sheppard said. And therein lies her secret to success. Don't take any shortcuts.
Originally from Shreveport, La., Sheppard was raised in Houston and attended St. Agnes Academy, where she was fortunate to be coached by NBA legend Calvin Murphy. Fate had a little hand in that partnership, as Murphy has the distinction of being the shortest player ever inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. Sheppard herself stands only 5-5, but her lack of height didn't determine her future. "I am an example that size does not matter," she said.
That can-do attitude led to a WNBA career with the Orlando Miracles, as well as stints with several other teams. But after retiring from the professional ranks, Sheppard looked around and found that there was something lacking in the local basketball programs for teens. "I realized that leagues needed to provide training," she said. And that is a void she has sought to fill with her program Unleash Da Beast, a youth summer basketball program in the Katy area. And staying true to her roots, Sheppard doesn't offer the participants any shortcuts.
"Six- and 7-year-olds are shooting on regulation-size goals," she said of the program. "They're being taught the proper way to play with the proper equipment, so there's no need to re-teach them the skills when they get older. We teach the fundamentals without crutches."
Participants are divided into teams that train together once a week. Saturdays are game day, and each team plays every other team in a bracket format. The program culminates on Aug. 11 with a championship game. "Over the course of a month, we see great improvement in all the kids," she said.
With support from both PowerAde and the Vince Young Foundation, Sheppard hopes that soon, Unleash Da Beast will be able to offer scholarships to those youths who can't afford the participation fee, but for now, the program does cost $235 for the summer. For more information or to register, go to www.unleashdabeast.com.
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