The dream of playing college basketball is alive and well for many young players across the Heartland. But what does it take to make it to the next level?
I went on a journey around the Heartland to find the answer to that question.
From the outside, the St. Paul Lutheran Gym hardly looks like a hot bed for hoops.
But inside a different story, where youngsters from the Jackson Youth Optimist League like 10-year-old Dakota Ogle play hard and dream big.
"I would like to go in the NBA," said Dakota Ogle, youth basketball player.
Dakota's dad Rich Ogle stands 6'6" but never played beyond high school.
He's been told Dakota could grow as tall as 6'9."
Do you feel you might have lighting in a bottle?
"Sometimes, but sometimes they regress a little bit so you let them go at their own pace and go from there," said Rich Ogle, Dakota's Dad
SEMO Head Coach Dickey Nutt should know a thing or two about this subject. He's coached his two sons Lucas and Logan on the Collegiate level.
Nutt says attitude and effort are keys, but watch out for the red flags.
"I think were all probably guilty of wanting our kids to be the best they can be and sometimes we kind of get in the way," said Dickey Nutt/SEMO Head Coach. "Sometimes we push and push when you have to back off and give them a little air."
SEMO Guard Marland Smith holds the schools all-time three point shooting record. He's also helped out at Nutt's summer camps. His advice?
"To follow their dreams," Marland Smith/SEMO Senior Guard said. "If that's what they want to do they can do it."
Smith would be proud of the passion shown by these youngsters inside the St. Paul Gymnasium.
While the dreams of may young boys and girls start at gyms like this, it eventually goes to the Junior High School and High School level.
The Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team is ranked number one in the state. The Crusaders also have seven freshman on the team-some of whom are already thinking about playing college ball one day.
Is that kind of a dream?
"Yeah, I've grown up watching girls and boys and it's always pumped me up and it's exciting to see where this journey will take me," said Grace Mirly, Saxony Lutheran freshman.
"All my teammates we push each other so we can help each other get there one day," said Raegan Wieser, Saxony Lutheran freshman.
"I hope to play College basketball one day and I know I will have to work hard every day to get there," said Brianna Mueller, Saxony Lutheran freshman.
College scout Ronnie Dean has spent most of his adult life in gyms coaching and scouting. He knows what players need to make it to the college ranks.
"Fundamentals, you got to be able to dribble, pass and shoot," said Ronnie Dean, a college scout.
"It's amazing these three things seem simple but a lot of players can't do them-and teach your kids a jump shot."
And at the end of that shot may be the glory the kids are looking for.
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