LUMBERTON — When the reality of the Robeson Wolfpack AAU team came to fruition, Sam McIntyre wasted no time to make a call about an assistant coach.
McIntyre knew he wanted in an energetic assistant coach to help him run his program that now sponsors a boys 16-and-under AAU basketball team. He wanted someone with vitality, heart and the drive to want to aid young men from Robeson County that would be a part of the team.
That person was Stargell Love.
“I knew he had game when he was this tall, and when he went off I followed his career,” McIntyre said. “When he went off to Baylor, I was his biggest fan. Having him on our staff, it’s amazing.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge for these kids. He’s went off and made it and has come back. Me and my coaching staff feed off of it (Love’s intensity) and it makes our practices even more intense. He challenges players to get better each time out, and it challenges us as a coaching staff.”
After playing at the Division I level at Baylor for a season out of high school, Love brings basketball knowledge that McIntyre and his staff want to impart on the young athletes, but Love also has seen what it takes to reach that level and wants to help those kids realize what it takes to leave Robeson County and play college basketball.
Love left Baylor after his freshman year for Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, and then spent his last two seasons with New Mexico Highlands University. He lived out a dream of his of playing college basketball, and now wants to make that possible for others in his same situation more than a decade ago.
“A lot of things I learned, I learned on my own. With these kids, I have the knowledge of knowing ahead of them and being places they’ve never been and just expanding my knowledge to them,” Love said. “I’m just trying to guide them.
“When I look in their eyes, I see what I saw. The fact of not knowing everything, the fact of trying to learn, the fact of wanting to do great but not knowing how to do great. That’s what I try to get out of them, that I’m here for them at all times.”
On Tuesday, Love invited Lamont Taylor and Christian Gray for a Robeson Wolfpack practice with one goal in mind: to help open the players’ minds to what it takes on and off the court to make the dream of playing basketball past high school a reality.
Taylor, a Robeson County native, coached Love and many of the top local basketball talents during that time on the Robeson Rockets AAU team. While Taylor was coaching Love, it was a new process for the both of them on which tournaments to attend and the best ways to find exposure for athletes.
After learning their lessons, a mission was set to make sure that doesn’t happen again for the next wave of young basketball talent coming through Robeson County.
“As you grow older in this game, you understand that some of the things you think you know, you really don’t know,” Taylor said. “One of the things I want to do with him is to make sure he doesn’t go through the same struggle that I went through and teach him and Sam some of the pitfalls, some of things they are going to face and how to face them.”
Taylor is the founder and CEO of GetMeRecruited that runs camps and increases exposure for basketball players looking to move to the next level. Seeing a former players coaching in the same gym he grew up in was a proud moment for Taylor.
“Some people achieve success in different ways, and the fact that he took some of the lessons I taught him, some of the values and wanted to pass them along means success to me,” Taylor said. “The fact that he’s learned a lot about the way we structured it and how we made it happen, it’s awesome.”
While growing up wanting to play basketball somewhere other than Robeson County was a dream for Love, being able to walk the sidelines and be a part of drills as a coach was also a vision that he still recalls having.
“When I was 13 years old, I always knew I wanted to coach and to be a positive influence for the kids,” Love said. “When Sam came up to me and wanted to help him out with the organization was a no-brainer. … It feels good to be in this position, especially in the gym I grew up in. There’s a lot of love here. I put a lot of blood sweat and tears in here and I’m hoping they will do the same.”
That work ethic is what Love carried with him to play two seasons at Lumberton High School before transferring to Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem. The move was to hone his skills on the court, but also to reach the eligibility requirements that comes with playing college basketball.
That is a lesson that the 27-year-old feels goes without being noticed until it is too late for young players today.
“The biggest challenge is trying to get the kids to understand how hard they need to work,” Love said. “A lot of kids think they just go out there and play basketball. They don’t know about the classroom part or how they need that with their skills. It’s a lot more than just basketball.”
Gray, a Fayetteville native, has worked as a player development coach at North Carolina Central, has worked with a handful of professional basketball players and runs DIVERSE, which he owns and uses to mentor young men to success on and off the basketball court. Coming from the same region, Gray has experienced the same issues that many players in Robeson County faces, and used his visit to give his story and impart lessons.
“We want to let them know that their environment doesn’t dictate your future,” Gray said. “There is some truth to that, but you cane make the best out of any situation.
“My biggest message is that you might be in a situation, but with a work ethic and perseverance you can get through it.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.