Al Shep, Stepinac Basketball Freshman Head Coach/Varsity Assistant Coach | Hoop Story #054

Al Shep, Stepinac Basketball Freshman Head Coach/Varsity Assistant Coach | Hoop Story #054

What are your earliest memories playing Basketball? 

Earliest memories would be just growing up in the parks hooping, watching the older guys play waiting for my invite to their courts. Being outside everyday playing 21, 1on1s, just hooping. Playing with Riverside and traveling with them while earning my stripes throughout NYC from park to park. Local tournaments to the bigger ones I was making my mark.

What was it like growing up right next to Tristate?

Growing up next to Tristate was great because I was able to see legends hoop daily. God shammgod, Kareem Reid, Ali Moe to name a few were people that I was able to see and eventually got accepted by them and was able to get on the court with them. I'm a Harlem Kid from 142nd and Lenox Avenue so if you were nice, if you were an entertainer, or claimed to be somebody with a name you came thru my side of town. Tristate was my park and every game I had in there, Harlem was there to support and I made sure i did my part to let it be known that they got my back for a reason because I can get to it.

You played in the PSAL when there was an overflow of talent across all boroughs, how has the game changed over the past few decades from Public to Private?

PSAL and the CHSAA have always been loaded with talent especially local talent. I think the CHSAA is the best league hands down but the PSAL have amazing talented kids, some that get overlooked, and some that's there for different reasons. The talent is NYC is always going to be high so every game you're going to get good competition and chippy basketball. 

Talk about your career at St. Francis, what life lessons were you able to take away from playing there?

St Francis was great, from the coaching staff, to the teammates, to the fans  in the building,  they all took me in and treated me like family the whole time there. Taught me how to be a man, how to lead, how to work hard. Taught me how to stand tall in adversity and appreciate the ups and downs of the game. It helped strengthen my focus and my dedication to the game I love. Most importantly I was able to get a free good education and degree from there. 

You traveled to different cities all over the world for 3 years with team Nike NY and played Overseas in four countries, what were some of the most memorable moments out there?

Way too many memorable moments that will never be forgotten and will forever be in history. If i had to pick a few, winning the world basketball festival in DC with Team Nike, playing on the same team with Kevin Durant in Dyckman, winning MVP and the finals in Ecuador with Barcelona and accepting the trophy on the soccer field in front of thousands of people. Being on billboards across my city, from Dyckman train station, 125th street, 34th street and 42nd street. I’ve been blessed to do a lot with this game of basketball, legend in my own right and I’m just trying to push the game forward for the next group coming.

Talk about your experience in San Fernando, Chile.

San Fernando was fun, the people of Chile are amazing; the culture, the food, the way they embraced me, and packed the gym for every game. It was a grind of a living condition but besides that everything was love. I appreciated my time there wish I could've brought a championship to that city but we had a good playoff run.

Dyckman is a second home to you. What were you able to learn from playing out there and  what makes it the best tournament in NYC right now?

Playing out there just helped teach me to bring it night in/night out. The names don't matter if you don't perform, the crowd will let you hear about it. It’s New York City toughness and talent at its finest. Dyckman basketball is the epitome of every NYC hooper. Tough, gritty, and play the game with a chip on their shoulder. Some do it in style with flash, some do it the dirty work way, either way we make you respect it and us.

Dyckman will always be a second home. The atmosphere, the culture, the people I have nothing but love for. They have embraced me for years and I earned the respect of everyone up there to where on any given day I can pull up and chill and it's nothing but Love. Big S/0 to Ken Stevens, Da Mayor, and everybody else involved with dyckman basketball and the community as a whole. 

When it comes to coaching, what part of the job do you enjoy most?

Everything in total.  I am able to play a major role in the development of guys/girls of all ages in their talents as well as help develop them off the court. I love and appreciate every part of the grind. From the discipline it takes to being really good at your craft, studying film, teaching the game, drawing up plays, yelling on the sidelines, and watching players get out of their comfort zones and come into their own, I love it all. I'm a true student of the game and will continue to learn daily as well as give my all to it.  


What's next for you?

Continue to grow, continue to get better, and stay ready so that whenever my name is called for the next level I'm ready to put my best foot forward.

I plan to keep pushing the game forward and developing talent through Shep Academy as well as getting better and better in my coaching craft and trying to compete for a Championship every single season. We are counting down the days to the Final Four and I never made it to the tournament as a player but, I would love to coach at the college level and hopefully be part of a program that gets there and is playing at this time of year in the NCAA Tournament. Stay low, keep firing, Trust god, trust the process, and the sky is the limit for the levels I can reach. 

What's your best advice to the next generation of high school players?

Stay in the gym, stay away from distractions, commit to the process, embrace the grind, and Go Hoop. Don't let politics, rankings, social media, etc steer you away from the focus and the goal. “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard”

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