Yesterday the final step in a long journey was announced. It officially ended last Thursday. It was a journey filled with up and downs. One filled with doubts, pain and disappointment. All the the things that make it so much sweeter in the end. By all measures Grace Leary is not suppose to be the toast of the town today. Everything has worked against her, not with her along the way. But she has overcome it all and now is off the board. GRACE LEARY GAVE A VERBAL COMMITMENT TO ASSUMPTION UNIVERSITY.
When Grace Leary showed up at NBS as a scared 8th grader. She had no presence in the gym. She tired very had to avoid being put in the fire vs the best players in New Jersey. You could tell she was in awe of the players in the gym. I certainly believed this was not going to work out for her. I thought the intensity of the gym would scare her away. I thought she would do what so many other kids do… make an excuse to find a more attractive environment. A place where she could get love and have sweet things whispered in her ears. Then go bad for a weak high school, score lots points and win awards. What I didn’t know and would soon find out is that Grace Leary is one of the toughest kids, I have ever met. Her ability to rise above obstacles is way beyond special. There is simply nothing that can make her stop believing in herself. She has figured out, that working hard and showing up are the keys to success. Grace Leary always shows up.
Today kids worry so much about everything except getting better. They worry about getting Scholarships rather than just playing. Today kids are more concerned how they viewed thru the eyes of social media. Kids today love bragging about where and who they play with. They wrap themselves around awards and hype. Grace Leary never cared about any of these things and never will. She has been too laser focused on making her dream come true. There was nothing along the way to tell her, that her dreams would come true. They were no signals that gave her hope for the future. In fact everything in Grace Leary’s past said do what so many before her had done…’SETTLE”. It’s the easy thing to do. There are 100 ways you can save face and convince yourself that your didn’t settle. It’s so easy because thousand of kids and parents do it every day.
When you play at Howell High School, college coaches don’t flock to your games. It’s easy to blame your lack of high school expose for your dream not coming true. Grace Leary refuse to do this because she just couldn’t.. it was in her DNA. She played on a low level AAU team. The only people who knew of her team were she and her teammates. College coaches didn’t line the court to watch her play. But Grace Leary refuses to Surrender. It’s easy to train in your own town when there is no competition. You can always blame your lack of development on not being able to travel. You can always be like everyone else in your town. It’ not so bad being ordinary. Grace Leary had no interest in being ordinary.
Today when a player commits we spend all our energy talking about their journey. But in the case of Grace Leary, she can serve as the biggest role model for those kids fighting a uphill battle. When Grace Leary was a freshman her mom Tara was diagnosed with cancer, it was devastating to the family. Grace Leary who is quiet by nature was even more quiet during these times. But yet their was her mother at NBS driving and supporting her daughter every weekend. With life in the balance, Grace Leary and mother went on this beautiful journey together. Together they both fought battles. Tara in the game of life and Grace in the game of hoops. Today Tara and Grace have no more to give. They have given so much.. its time for them to live another kind of life.. the best kind of all… WATCHING A DREAM COME TRUE🙏🏀👏
Grace Leary played JV that freshman year. Playing JV at SJV or RBC is no disgrace. But playing JV at Howell doesn’t bold well if you want to play in college, a high competitive level or receive a scholarship. History and the track record say so… to the best of my knowledge, only Sarah Olson who became a Captain and leading scorer at Monmouth U and Kaitlyn Schmid who went on to U of Sciences and lead the country while breaking the national record assist to turnovers for any level of college basketball; are the only players of note from Howell in my 19 years. (I may have missed someone). I remember I was shocked Grace didn’t make varsity. But unlike other kids, Grace or her parents didn’t fuse or make a stink. They took a negative and made it a positive. They used her JV experience to build confidence and showcase her talents. You seen Grace Leary loves jumping hurdles. Grace Leary did something so many kids don’t have the strength to do…SEE THE BIG PICTURE WHEN OTHERS QUESTION HER TALENTS.
Assumption U and myself have a very special relationship. I have to come clean and admit. I love everything about their staff. They are honest and work as hard as any staff at any level I know. There support for me and the Shore community is unwavering. They have never said no to me …EVER. ACADEMIC ELITE is now the biggest event in the state. You can thank Head Coach Kerry Phayne and her trusty asst coach Sue Cahill. There support was vital in starting that event. Assumption is in a tough spot. They play in the toughest D2 conference in the country. They need D1 players to win and compete in their league. They know this and it’s why their staff has built a reputation for working hard. It has always been my dream that Assumption would steal a great shore player. Finally there have done just that with Grace Leary and finally I will get an Assumption hat. In the past Assumption has been close to stealing a shore D1 player, only to have a D1 school beat them late in the game. This time two D1 schools appeared to have Grace on her their radar. But remember there are always ego free kids who pick a school and not a name.
It was during her sophomore year that Grace Leary started to bloom. She had an outstanding Sophomore year after being moved up to varsity. But first you must know a little history. Grace Leary mom was cancer free now and it set Grace’s mind free as well. In her first two games she scored 17 points in back to back games. It was a message to all, a new star was being born. She had 303 points and scored in double figures 19 times. She scored over 20 points on multiple occasions. It was clear she had arrived but what people didn’t know was this. She got up at 7am in the morning to shoot before her NBS class started at 11am. It why her dad Pat drove her to NBS, after school shooting, Point Guard School and Core Skills. When she had half days of school off, she called to shoot. She came and shoot on the weekends in the summer. She went to camp it seemed every week. Grace Leary did all the things most kids in her situation, her environment don’t do…. refuse to settle and accept the death of their dreams. Grace Leary simply outworked the world and left no stone in her development unturned.
This summer Grace Leary came to point guard school. She was matched up with some of the best point guards in the state. I jumped on very hard about giving too much respect to other players. I reminded her “I don’t givre a shit about her reputation” I told her “you are good as all these overrated stars, your just scared” She gave me this look as if to say, are you kidding me. Do you know what I have been though, nothing can scare me. It was chillin because there was something in her eyes that day. I can’t explain it but it was clearly there. The rest of the week of camp Grace Leary was the best point guard in camp. She was dominate at times, it was pure joy watching her destroy the top point guards in the state. It also was a sign of things to come.
Pat Leary is a high school principal. He is also a brilliant basketball mind. I didn’t find that out until Grace’s junior year. It was then, when we started talking more often. It was then we finally started to speak at NBS and build a friendship. I had no idea over the years he was a principle and educator until Grace’s Junior year at a AAU tournament. He can flat out coach the game. So when I watched Grace Leary just put on a show at a AAU tournament last year I was shocked how well her team played. But when she single handedly beat the New Jersey Cardinals with a 28 point show stopping performance this summer.. EVERYONE SAT UP. I was blowEd away. It seemed her once no name Rebel AAU team was building a reputation. Coach Leary and Bob Dubina a former D1 coach had developed a special group of underrated players. They were the surprise team of the summer. Grace Leary had a summer not to be forgotten anytime soon. The only thing to slow her down was a sprained ankle at the end of the summer, which she has fully recovered from.
When college coaches call me, I rarely pick up. I prefer they text me. It avoids long winded phony conversations. I like getting right to the point, either you like the kid or not. Tell me what you think and I will tell you what I think. But I always remind them. I see them against the best of the best. I know the details and my track record speaks for itself. But when Assumption calls, I always answer the phone. Sue Cahill called me and we discussed Grace. I never told Grace of our conversation, she was playing so well and was injured at the time. I wanted her to stay focused and to get healthy. Then her father called and asked me a very important question. Should Grace commit? She had one of the top D2 schools in the country recruiting and offering her scholarship. But she also had 2 Division one schools asking her to wait until the pandemic ended. It was then I told him about Assumption. It was then Assumption stepped up and did what they do best. Educate Grace and her family about why Assumption would be the best home for Grace. It was a big decision looming for the family. Assumption had seen this movie too many times with shore kids. They dance with them and they leave the party with a Division one school.
When my phone started ringing to call Grace Leary. I paid no attention to it. I knew I would see Grace at after school shooting. What could be so important? But then Bob Dubina called me and said “look I need you to call Grace Leary” If you know Bob Dubina, when he asks you to do something it’s important. So I called Grace and she was in school. So I waited to see her at after school shooting. It was there I asked her what was up. She said I have some news for you ” I commited to Assumption” I smiled and said great move. She then said “I did it last Thursday” I said “you just telling me today on Monday” She laughed and said “everyone knows you can’t keep a secret, you would have put it on twitter and told everyone before me” Yeah Grace Leary is smart and that’s why she is going to Assumption University… CONGRATS TO A KID WHO REALLY EARNED IT…. NO OBSTACLES GIRL!