Leesville senior Brittany Staves didn’t even want to play basketball at first.
“I saw how much work it took,” said Brittany.
She watched from afar as her older brother, Brandon, played and excelled at the sport. The countless practices he participated in and the honest critique he received almost frightened Brittany.
But in sixth grade, Brittany hit a big growth spurt. As she was walking around Leesville Road Middle School one day, someone approached her, amazed by her height.
“Somebody said ‘Oh, Brittany, are you going to play basketball because you’re so tall?’” said Brittany’s father, John Staves.
Brittany had avoided playing basketball for years, but then realized that maybe she did want to pick up the sport. Her height was one factor, but given her history of family ties to basketball, Brittany felt that she had finally met the inevitable.
Her father, John Staves, played Division I collegiate basketball at Southern University, located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then Brandon followed in his footsteps and played at Guilford College in Greensboro.
“My brother played [basketball]–he was really good. My dad played in college. So I just felt it was only right for me to play,” said Brittany.
Now around six years later, Brittany plans to attend Campbell University on a full athletic scholarship to play basketball. For John, it’s incredible to see his daughter excelling at sport he’s always loved.
“It’s a joy as a parent to watch your kid on the court playing because not only are [they] doing something that they enjoy to do, but they’re doing something that you once did that you got joy from,” said John.
The roots of the Staves family’s basketball history lay in the Pelican State of Louisiana. Brittany’s father, John, grew up in the state and attended W.O. Boston High School in Lake Charles.
During his childhood and teenage years, John could constantly be found shooting hoops out on the court. He starred for his high school’s basketball team, playing for four years on the varsity team and serving as a starter for three years. Magazine publisher Street & Smith even designated John as a high school All-American.
John’s success on the court attracted attention from a couple of collegiate teams. He ultimately decided to attend Southern University, where he played four years of college basketball. John averaged 11 points per game during his three years as a starter and helped lead Southern to two Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships during his career.
Southern also played in the NCAA Tournament while John was on the team in 1985, losing to number one seed St. John’s in the first round.
John appreciated his opportunity to play basketball collegiately, something many don’t have the chance to do. He especially enjoyed competing against players from various parts of the country, from New York to California.
“It was great because you got the opportunity to not only to play basketball, which was something I loved, but I got to travel and play basketball against some of the best players in the country,” said John.
And even to this day, he cherishes the memories he made along the way, battling each practice and game with his teammates. “Even to this old man, they’re still some of my fondest memories,” said John.
Now, John relives some of his memories as he watches his children out on the court.
Brandon was the first of the three Staves siblings to play basketball. Beginning in elementary school, he worked out with John, developing his game. He later excelled as a four-year member of the varsity men’s basketball team at Leesville Road High School from 2010-2014, averaging 13.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists during his senior year. Brandon also earned All-CAP-8 and All-District honors during his senior season.
He then took his talents to Guilford College, where he averaged four points per game in his lone season with the Quakers.
Then came Brittany, and John instructed her as he did previously with Brandon.
The Staves’ didn’t have access to a gym, so John and Brittany would drive just a few miles down the road from their home to the outdoor courts at Leesville Road Elementary School. John started her off by teaching her the basic elements of the court–the backboard, the rim, the free throw line, the elbow. Then, Brittany transitioned to practicing the fundamentals such as ball handling and shooting on the worn-down Leesville baskets.
John watched Brittany blossom before his eyes into a gifted ball player.
“She realized as she continued to play and got better [that] she had a talent,” said John. “She had a gift.”
Brittany acknowledged that as she continued to develop, her love for basketball developed as well.
“After understanding the game and becoming better, it helped me learn to love it because I was becoming better at it and actually excelling in the sport,” said Brittany.
And Brittany sure did go on to excel. Once she started high school, she had an immediate impact on the girls varsity team, turning around a team that had not seen much success in previous years. She helped lead the Pride to a 21-7 record during her freshman year and a 20-8 record as a sophomore. Leesville kept climbing and finished with a record of 22-5 in both her junior and senior seasons.
Brittany picked up many accolades along the way. She’s a three-time all-conference honoree, even earning the distinction of CAP-7 Player of the Year as a senior. She also achieved all-district honors as a sophomore and junior and won District 5 Player of the Year her senior. When you look at the stats, Brittany has truly been a force for the Pride; she averaged 15 points per game as a junior and an impressive 20.8 points per game as a senior.
Her gifted athleticism shines out on the court as she overpowers defenders on the offensive end of the floor and grabs rebounds and steals on defense. She’s extremely versatile, dominating in the lane and out towards the three point arch. Brittany said she would not have this strong skill set without the help of her father.
“He’s taught me everything I know, from my post moves, to guard skills, to shooting, to just everything,” said Brittany. “He’s just taught me literally every aspect of the game.”
John acts as Brittany’s trainer and mentor, but they also have a strong father-daughter relationship. They try to leave all of the basketball talk out on the court when they go home, minus watching some film. He advises her on her strengths, weaknesses, and potential improvements, but also gives Brittany encouragement as a father in the stands.
And as both her father and coach with extensive basketball experience under his belt, John can relate to Brittany’s struggles and successes. “I feel her pains, ups and downs. I go through it with her,” said John.
Now, Brittany will move on to the big leagues at Campbell, becoming the third member of her family to play basketball at the next level. As she continues to play, she’ll always remember how her family has supported her along the way.
Brittany not only looks forward to the days to come at Campbell, but she also takes pride in her successes that have made those around her smile, especially John.
“It’s really heartwarming to know that I’m making my dad proud because he just loves basketball,” said Brittany.