“Don’t you ever turn your f*****g back on me and roll your eyes at me, while I’m speaking to you. I wouldn’t take that shit from my daughter and I’m sure as hell not taking it from you. You can get the hell out her and never come back, trust you won’t be the first” with that 60 kids took a water break. I was livid beyond belief. There was dead silence in the gym. This was real raw emotional angry. I caught Justine Pissott’s father out the corner of my eye. He didn’t move a muscle. He sat there and didn’t seem to care about the over the top, one way exchange. I walked to center court waiting for the water break to end. Then somebody taped me on my shoulder. It was Justine Pissott, she said “Tiny I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. It will never happen again” I looked her in the eyes and said ” I love you”. Then we went back to work and she out worked everyone in the gym as she ALWAYS DONES.
I met Justine Pissott when she was 1st grade. She was like many kids she played soccer and basketball . She was tall for age and extremely quite. She wore these jazzy socks that are now the rage today. I gave her the nickname “socks”. She was strange to me at first. Her twin sister was loud and funny filled with personality. Justine, would just stare at me when I spoke. She also was constantly asking me if she was doing a drill right. It was clear to me, she was different at a early age. In 2nd grade, I put her in Core Skills training a group that starts in 4th grade. I thought as an advanced 3rd grader she would be find. Later I found out she was not in 3rd grade but rather 2nd grade, I knew she was different. She doesn’t wear those jazzy socks anymore. I think I know why. It’s because everyone started selling, buying and wearing those jazzy socks. JUSTINE PISSOTT has never wanted to be like everyone else.
When Justine Pissott was in 3nd grade her father started bringing her to train at the Hoop Group daily. He knew that Tom’s River was not a basketball town. He wanted her to play in an environment where she could learn the game, have fun but improve. She was strangely quick and lively on her feet. I took that it was because of the soccer. She played for PDA, a premier soccer program. It funny because today some question her foot speed, but more on that later. I told Jim Pissott he was in the right place for her to step up her training. We train hard but there is enough silly time for the girls to enjoy. Jim signed both daughters up. Gia and Justine and it was the start of a relationship. I would find out later the both Justine and Gia would join the Shoreshots. It was at that time Justine would become friends with another player SOPHIA SABINO. The two would become unseparateable and best friends to this day. They have played or trained together since that first day. Both are a handful because if you see one, you see the other. They spend all day taking on the phone or staying at each other’s home. Many of the same schools are recruiting both. It’s a friendship built on trust and Basketball. When they both played on a basketball team that split up. The entire team left as a group but did not invite them. Both were heart broken and no longer had a team. Justine had given up soccer for basketball. Something I thought was a mistake but turns out was the right thing.
Many people think I ‘m associated with the Shore Shots organization because of my realationship with Tracey Sabino. I have no more involvement with Shoreshots as I do with any other organization. Jim Pissott came to me and asked what his daughter should do? He asked if I knew of any AAU teams. I laughed but didn’t realize how serious people took AAU at that age. I told him to find a good travel team. He looked at me in disbelief and said Justine was too serious for that. I then explained to Jim, AAU basketball at that age means nothing. I told him half the girls on the team which left, won’t be playing basketball by the time his daughter reached high school and the other half will be marginal players at best. I will never forget him saying these words “you really believe that?” I said “no, I know this for a fact” he then asked me what his daughter should do? I told him she should train and become the most skilled played she could become. I told him games and AAU at tbat age mean zero. What matters was her long term development. I told him work toward getting ready for high school. Jim Pissott took my advice and did just that. His daughter and Sophia Sabino created a little team called the 2021 Shoreshots, they got blown out on a nightly basis. They lost games big to everyone back in those days. Yet the two best friends went about getting better.
NBS is not for everyone and it doesn’t mean a player is not good or doesn’t work hard. When I told Jim Pissott, Justine should attend, even I was not sure. The intensity and language is not something all kids are ready for. Justine Pissott was ready for NBS the day she was born. She embraced the sessions, she would show up and do her early 2 hour sessions with her age group and then stay for older sessions. Her passion for the game was unbridled. She just seemed to never tired from playing. A typical week for JUSTINE as a 5th grader was 14 hours a week. The only player I knew with that love and work ethic for the game was KELLY CAMPBELL the current ALL AMERICAN candidate at #15 DePaul. You have heard me say the hardest thing in sports to do, is to show up everyday. Justine Pissott starting showing up EVERYDAY at a early age.
Two years ago something started to change for Justine Pissott. First she started growing and her body changing. It made her awkward and off-balance at times. She went from 5’5″ to 5’10”. She was tall and lean and had all those skill sets, she worked so hard to develop. She also was part of the 2021 Shoreshots, and the team had started to blossom. It was a team of players who had developed by training and sticking together. It was a group of one time misfits, led by two players who once played on a very bad AAU team together. 7th grade was a turning point for Justine, her Shoreshots team played in every big tournament and stole the show on most nights, her team had added a unknown star named Destiny Adams as well. It was strange because I knew that at that point Justine Pissott was going to be something we had never seen before. I also knew she would facing some new challenges. When the coach of the National Champions see’ s your mother and asks if your daughter is #4? You know you life is about to change. When college coaches started working the edges to contact you, things can go awful bad. Justine Pissott as a 7th grader had hit the spotlight and that spotlight was only going to get bigger.
When Justine Pissott was a 7th grader she told me she wanted to shoot like ALEX MUMMERT. A boy with shooting range to 40 feet, I told her it would take lots of work and giving up even more of her time. But I think it’s important to tell you what Justine to that point was doing weekly
Monday- Thursday- Grammar school ball games or practice 2.30- 4pm.. the her training session from 4 pm- 6pm and then a shooting session for 90 mins. Most kids at that age play grammar school ball and maybe do a little more if they can find a gym close by…Pissott drove a hour after school every day and never missed anything. It’s the extra something you can’t teach. It’s the will to de different that everyone else, that separates her from so many other kids.
Two years ago her schedule during the school was all that above and a 90 min shooting session with heavy ball. It was the start of her true transformation. Last summer Justine Pissott would go out doors with me like she did every summer. We would shoot and work on ball handling. Those summers were long and hot. The harder part was training before a AAU game. She would want to have fresh legs to look good. I told her focus on getting better not showing off for folks who would soon be jealous of her. Justine put in massive hours in the summer. 6 hours of camp, then off to the park or gym to shoot. Many kids work hard, but if the truth be told there is a reason kids like JUSTINE PISSOTT are different. They have a extra gear that you can’t give a kid. It’s the luck of the Genetic draw and then a kid has to love the game. There has to be this over top love for something…JUSTINE has this love of basketball you rarely see.
When Justine was trying to decide what high school to attend. She had a number of schools in mind. Yes some coaches called, that’s the way it is, while everyone screams about recruiting. In most cases it’s a coach just asking what the status is of a kid. It was clear she would not be going to attend her hometown school TRN. The Pissott family have a ton of respect for Coach Gillen, but much like her decision to train at hoop group. Justine wanted to play in an environment where all the girls on the team were die hard basketball players and lived in the gym. She wanted a place where the basketball culture was in place. This decision was made harder because Coach Gillen’s husband and brother in law had coached Justine in soccer since she was in 1st grade. She loved playing for the two coaches. It also meant she would not get a chance to play with her twin sister Gia, who attends the prestigious Mates Academy but plays basketball at TRN.
I knew Justine Pissott was most likely going to RBC the moment her best friend Sophia Sabino decided to attend RBC. While Sabino is a year older, they have never played a season of basketball apart. Jim Pissott asked me about RBC and asked me to be totally honest. I told him, if she wants to be a star, score lots points, read her name in the paper or have her ass kissed, not to go there. I told him he was a task master and quote ” he won’t put up with bullshit” finally I said to Jim Pissott, he is not going to recruit her, so if you need that, it won’t work out. Jim listened and 3 weeks later called me and told it was RBC. I asked him why? He said they really cared about her as a student. He also said of all the schools it just felt different. He told me Joe Montano was a straight shooter. He told him, her school work is first and if that’s not the main reason she wanted to attend RBC, she was making a mistake. I really believe she made the right choice.
“She going to take a jump like you will not believe this summer. You better be ready for it. She’s going to do these you and others have never seen before. She going to be a level above everyone”
I told Mr. Pissott this last summer….I told him to get ready to enjoy the fruits of his daughter’s labor. I told him every school in America trying to win a National Championship will know her name. Last summer Justine Pissott grew 4 more inches and was 6’2″ with length, and skills that were unmatched. She also became that deep shooter she wanted to become. She has the best range of any boy or girl I know at the high school level. The awkward slow footed baby was gone. Justine Pissott last summer became a walking terror. She wrecked havoc all summer playing for the most visible AAU team in New Jersey, the 2021 SHORESHOTS. Her AAU team were rock stars, where hundreds of college coaches would show up for games. Destiny Adams had left the Shoreshots and many thought it would effect the teams preformance. It did not because almost every player had improved and Pissott had become a once in a lifetime baby. The team became the most sought after group on the AAU circuit. Justine Pissott was also going to have start deciding what was important.
This summer all the letters, phone calls and scholarship offers started coming in. There was not a single big time program that had not checked in. These things are flattering and intoxicating and in some cases can ruin a kid. This summer during our park workouts, I told Justine to be careful and not to lose focus of what matters most, getting better. What was next on her agenda to get better, should be her only concern. We were taking 5,000 shots a week. We were doing the foot work defensive drill everyday. She was in the gym now 7 days a week. It was important for her to understand basketball is not everything in life, I wanted her to enjoy things away from the game. She hated when I made her take time off, she didn’t like if I questioned for one second if somebody worked harder than her.
Justine has a edge, the great one’s all have that edge, but it must be checked always. I tell her all the time, you will get all the attention when things go well. You suck all the air and light out of the gym from everyone else. I told her you must learn not to share the spotlight but give it away to others. I explained to her that her standard was different. She once asked why I only yell at her and Sophia and not other girls? I told her because you two have love all around you..you get the scholarships, letters, phone calls, the hype. I reminded her, how happy we are for her “but it doesn’t make you better and my job is to remind you of that everyday in front of your peers to “humble your ass”….she understood”.
Justine Pissott gets up at 6.30 on weekends. She drives with her dad to NBS and we shoot as he goes to get coffee or sits in his truck. She puts a weighted vest on. We take deep three’s and get up 1,200 shots a day. After we shoot she does a NBS session with boys and younger girls for two hours. Then after, she will do her girls session for two hours. Some days after she will go home. But some days I ask her to stay and clean up a few things. It’s in these days she will give me that look, the look that says I can’t walk right now. But she will always put the work in. I believe at this point it’s all she knows. It during these sessions we laugh and talk. We talk about boys, dancing, drugs and family. She loves to tease and imitate me. Many times we talk about school and her grades, she has 3.5(not good enough). I think it’s during these sessions I hear her voice most clear. It during these sessions where she gets her best work done on and off the court. She hates when I allow others to jump in; if there not working as hard as her. She also does, what she has done since the day I met her…ask soooo many questions. She wants to know everything about everything.
The ego can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. It’s why I believe it was must be checked always with the best players in particular. I try to remind Justine basketball is nothing more than a coffee break. It’s something folks discuss at the water cooler and then go back to doing and worrying about things that really MATTER IN THERE LIFE. Your not and basketball is not that important is the message. There are parents and players who need to have all those around them, think something is special going on in their lives. I have told Justine this is ego, kids putting in public their scholarship offers. These things are small things, it’s ego and bragging not sharing. I explained to her being humble matters to those around you less fortunate. Bragging is like eating a steak in front of starving people, it makes you feel good but causes more pain, anger and distrust. It’s makes you smaller. There is no reason for it.
This fall colleges were asking Justine to visit there Campus miles away in other states. I told her your training is way more important that visiting a college right now. I told her if it didn’t interfere and it was a local visit by all means do so. I also reminded her, “not one of the players on those rosters would be there when she was a freshman” I told her Freshman and sophomores running around the country visiting school is ego driven not real. Half the coaches will be gone anyway, many of those scholarship offers may not even be open by that time she was ready for college. I told Justine focus on the now. Win the day, while others are visiting schools, work extra hard that day. Gain a edge on everyone who ever dreams of picking up a basketball.
Justine and her best friend Sophia took a visit to a college together this fall. Both were already offered by this school. They came to NBS, did there workout and took the 5 hour drive. I wasn’t a fan of Justine taking the visit but she did and had a great time. When she got back , I told her again. Not one player will be there and this coach has won a National Championship and may not be there either when your a senior. It was my way, right or wrong of saying slow your horses.
Once I got in a discussion with a parent as Justine was standing next to us. Her daughter is a sophomore stud being heavily recruited. She said “we are visiting schools for the experienced” I laughed and said “bullshit” at the time a division one head coach was standing there and listening to our conversation. I said well you can get that same experience by visiting his school, pointing to the the Division I head coach, he smiled widely. She then said ” we just might visit” I said “Why would you visit a school your daughter will never attend”. She said “she might attend, you never know”. I turn to this D1 head coach and said “see here’s the damn problem, there is zero chance she’s going to your school, it’s all bullshit” he laughed then I turn into Justine and said ” you’re doing all this work to go there? Well if that’s the case you could stop right now because I can guarantee you he will run back to his office right now and get the damn papers for you to sign right now…Justine turned red and we all got a good laugh
A top asst coach at a school ranked in the Top 3 in the country kept calling me about JUSTINE AND SOPHIA. I never took the call and wouldn’t call her back. One day Jim Pissott asked why I was not returning her call. I said “Jim nobody knows if Justine can play at that level yet, she hasn’t played a high school game” I feel those conversations are ego driven. There is nothing I could tell that school they don’t already know. I thought it was silly to even visit the school at this point. To Jim Pissott’s credit he agreed and said the focus for Justine should be “education, gettting better and developing emotionally”. As parents we make things too complicated when it doesn’t have to be. Recruiting will always take care of itself…the ego now that’s different.
Jim Pissott gets e mails daily asking him to bring his daughters to showcases. These showcases talk about players getting ranked. They also ask for a few dollars as well. Now no college coach pays attention to these things. Myself and college coaches get a good laugh at these rankings. Terms like “she not the best player on her block” are tossed around in jest. But many not all of these events are drvin by playing on kids and parents ego’s. You go to the event they brag about the kids and then give them a ranking. But it’s all ego and a effort to get college coaches to bite. There’s nothing real about it But unfortunately parents don’t understand coaches use there own eyes. Coaches don’t listen to people who never, coached, recruited or in some cases never played in deciding who to recruit. These decisions are carefully made in offices and after real research and background discussions. Not because of a bogus ranking.
Recently somebody sent me a list of the Top 10 Freshman and Top 20 (2022) players on the East coast. Many of these players in the different classes appearing on these list train at NBS. Justine was listed as the #9 freshman in NJ and # 14 on the East Coast. One day I overheard somebody at NBS talking about rankings. I lit her ass up good, I told her “don’t you ever bring that shit up in this building again” I then lined everyone up on the baseline and told them how the rankings work and how it was all nonsense. Once a 2022 ranked ahead of Justine attended NBS. I had zero idea who she was, Justine treated the young talented player on this day like a farm animal. Many kids who have been ranked ahead of her on these list have been destroyed by Pissott. I sat down with Justine and reminded her, she better remember what is important. That if these ranking matter to her, then she has been missing why we do things we do….That crap I told her are for those who really don’t believe in their games. Ballers ball not preach about there ranking.
Many kids and parents need to be able to tell those around them, my kid is special. Many kids will play for a sneaker company team not to get better or have a better experience. Nope they need to have everyone believe they are doing something bigger and more important than everyone else. The ego is powerful. Every sneaker team has tried to steal Justine from her 2021 Shoreshots team. They make promises and plans for her. They tell her about the top competition she will play, they tell her she will be in the main courts, they tell her coaches will be everywhere. The problem is her her AAU team is already getting all those things and her AAU team is bigger and better than the sneaker teams trying to steal her.. You see so it’s really about ego. Justine has been able to check her ego at least for now. Kelly Hughes and Dara Mabrey are two of the best in New Jersey girls basketball history. You be wise to check out there AAU history. Game over ego is something many kids should think about.
Now Pissott, will start her high school career. I told her, she is going to learn a lot of basketball this year. More than anytime in life and she needed to be A sponge and trust her coach. It’s not going to all be good. There are going to good moments and some real bad ones. They will be smiles and tears, but that will be the easy part. Justine is getting ready to see ugly. She will find out that not everyone is happy for her. She is going to find out that jealousy will follow her and try to disrupt her. She will learn that people will try to speak for her and put words in her mouth. She will meet parents and people she never met throw darts at her. She going to learn, she has a target on her back. She will experience friends disloyalty and gossip. It’s going to hurt and it’s going to hurt real bad. Even this very blog will bring bitterness from some. She better understand this goes with who she is and who she is becoming. But she better not return ugly with ugly. She better take all this negativity as the BIGGEST compliment to all her har work and talents.
One day I was sitting in the Hoop Group office with Justine, we were all teasing her about her defense and making fun of her, we were all having a good all-time at her expense. She had just gotten off the phone with one of the best schools in the country. Then James Cooper asked her a question, what’s your favorite school right now? she said “that school because they don’t play any defense and only shoot three’s, I’ll fit in great” …now you know why I love her so much!
I hope Justine Pissiott understands how much I love her. I hope she understands I appreciate how hard she works. But I hope she understands she has a real responsibility with so much attention coming her way. I hope she understands that she is a special basketball player. But that does not make her a special person. If she wants to be a special person, she must be humble and understanding to those around her. I hope all this attention doesn’t make her lose focus of what matters most God, family friends, teammates, coaches, inclusiveness and charity to others.
My best feelings of Justine Pissott is when I see a video of her being a kid, a twin sister, a friend or big sister to her brother. She is on her journey now and I hope she stays the course, regardless of the athletic outcome. I don’t call Justine socks anymore, socks are ordinary and there’s nothing ordinary about Justine Pissott. She is more different than any kid I’ve ever known. It’s why I call her the unicorn, because you know there out there. But you just haven’t seen one, that is until now. I just want this unicorn to touch lives in a positive loving way. Then she will have accomplished her real mission.