We asked Rising Stars President and Founder Paul Savramis why the Rising Stars teams’ successes this summer are so important to him.
Q: You have described the summer of 2023 as one of the most successful in 26 years. To what do you attribute that?
Paul Savramis: Our team's overall success continues to amaze me, but it's the effort made by our youngest team programs that are making all the difference. That success is a huge part of our overall team-building philosophy.
Q: You mention overall team-building philosophy; how young are the youngest Rising Stars, and at what age do you begin competitive play?
Paul Savramis: Rising Stars' overall programs begin as a developmental K-3 co-ed program called Little Stars. The game of basketball is introduced to our "Youngest Stars" by sharing general recreational activities together and just having fun by playing no-pressure games. That naturally leads them to segue into more competitive basketball. Our emphasis remains on making sure that they enjoy themselves and that their first experience is always a great one.
The program is run by Bethany LeSueur, Rising Stars’ director of girls’ programs and mother of four, along with her husband, Tom Hughes, director of operations for Rising Stars. Bethany and Tom do a great job for us with our entry programs, and that shows every year by the number of third graders that return for their first year of competitive play.
Q: So you begin actually playing competitively in third grade.
Paul Savramis: Yes, and we do that on a tiered level that goes from local team play to the most competitive national teams that play all year round.
Q: You have third graders playing all year long?
Paul Savramis: Amazingly, yes. These kids have a great time, and the families just can't seem to get enough. Rising Stars teams build a bond that keeps both the players and their families involved on and off the court. It's more than basketball. This year our 3rd and 4th graders are going to the nationals.
Q: How did the program do overall this summer?
Savramis: We had one of the strongest summers in 26 years of tournament play. The best thing I can see from the teams this summer is the continuity. Our age groups continue to grow from 3rd grade to 9th until they have to decide on what they want to do in high school, which is only natural.
Q: You often talk about continuity. Can you expand on that?
Paul Savramis: Gladly. Continuity is the basis and the metric of Rising Stars' success. Our 3rd graders, under the direction of coaches Dominique Williams and Sydney Barrington, begin with small groups from the Little Stars and build to a larger base. As the ages build, so does the level of skills and difficulty, so it's a great thing to see every age group increase in numbers. This year they surprised everyone with their advanced level of play throughout the city.
Q: You had told us that the continuity of the program begins at home. What did you mean by that, and how does that impact Rising Stars?
Paul Savramis: That's a great question. One area of pride for Rising Stars every year is seeing how many sons and daughters of former Rising Stars enroll in our programs and play on our teams. That, to me, has always been a great source of gratification. Seeing those boys and girls playing reminds us of their parents and their age, and that's incredible.
This year it's gone to another level with the number of former Rising Stars coming back to coach. That and the success of our first grassroots coach Omar Atkinson with his 7th graders' amazing string of victories this summer in the city's most prestigious tournaments. Added to that, two of his assistant coaches played for him.
It's that definition of continuity you had asked about that keeps it all together and provides the ties that bind.