LEAD Academy Basketball Player Kyle Shirley Confronts NPC Reporter

Another fierce battle is in the books and for the first time in this 1v1 collection, it was a three game series.

Thursday morning, from LEAD Academy at Pace, I tested my skills against current Lion eighth-grader Kyle Shirley. Slated to be a starting guard for the upcoming program this winter, the just under 6-foot point guard pushed me to my limits.

After winning the first game by a score of 21-15, a determined Shirley turned to me without hesitation and said, “Let’s go back.

That fiery, unflinching mentality was on display throughout the series, with every possession, and he won Game 2 by a score of 17-14. It went to a third game “winner take all”, where I won by the narrow margin of 11-8.

Needless to say, the Class of 2027 guard has a bright future. And he won’t back down from any challenger, on or off the pitch.

Here’s more on what made Shirley a valued competitor, her mindset as a college kid in the college scene, and some of the health issues he overcame to get here:

Notes 1v1

Unlike other contestants so far, Shirley has followed my 1-on-1 saga through social media and the Pensacola News Journal website.

He knew what to expect coming into the series, and he planned to use it as an opportunity to continue developing his game; Another day at the office.

“I kept track of your videos so I knew you could shoot the ball,” Shirley said. “I just wanted to play with a strong mentality and play my game and just have fun.”

He did and showed off his entire package in the process, which was plenty for a college kid. From the first possession, his unique and whimsical style of play was fully effective.

Between the legs, behind the back, stepping back or stepping aside, Shirley had a movement to open up. While some coaches would call these moves “wasted dribbles,” the LEAD guard nailed each one with a goal.

Shirley had a knack for using every combination of maneuvers to create space for a jump shot, which he began to swarm in games two and three.

While they didn’t fall in Game 1, the eighth-grader proved he could be considered what they call a “microwave” in basketball circles. Simply put, that means it can warm up quickly and when it does, good luck.

On several occasions, I forced him to resume his dribble beyond the three-point line, where he was praying and only finding net.

The offensive game is there, but to take the next step, Shirley will need to focus on one area in particular, which Lions head coach Joey Nieves said he does three days a week: the weight room.

Aside from game speed, which Shirley won’t have a problem with, the biggest leap from level to level is strength. Once he adds that to his frame, he’ll be polished and ready to continue leading the Lions down the right path.

The advantage of the young male

Opponents may try to point to strength, maturity and experience as places where they will have the advantage over Shirley, but he will arguably have the biggest advantage of all: the EYBL circuit.

The Elite Youth Basketball League, operated by Nike, is widely regarded as the nation’s premier travel basketball circuit. It has hosted countless now NBA players, 56 to be exact, since its inception in 2010.

Shirley had the privilege of competing with Alabama Fusion this summer, one of EYBL’s member teams. This program itself once featured now-professional players like Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe and Jamychal Green.

“Playing on these top teams, you see top players, DI kids, NBA kids, and you realize how hard you have to work just to be at any college level,” Shirley said. . “Whether it’s DIII, JUCO, you have to work very extremely hard. You have to hold your head up high, you have to be a good athlete, you have to have intangibles, all of that.”

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When he’s not making appearances with the Fusion, his full-time team is Alabama’s Dr1ven team, a member of the also high-profile Under Amour circuit. On both teams, he is the only player from the Pensacola area.

He may not have the college experience yet, but those AAU experiences give him an edge and understanding that’s hard to find elsewhere.

This will come in handy as a replacement for Treymar Jones, last season’s prized LEAD asset, who led the team to its best season averaging 17.1 points per game. Following his transfer to Milton High School, the Lions’ primary goalscoring role is now wide open and Shirley wants to take it big.

“Treymar did an amazing great job, I like him, he did really well,” Shirley said. “But I want to come to this gym and leave my name everywhere. Break records, be a good teammate, top scorer, I want to put my name here.”

Get her ducks in a row

Going into this 2022-23 academic year, Shirley should technically be a freshman.

However, as a home-schooled student last year, he was not allowed to play ball in high school. With that, Shirley took the opportunity to get ahead of the game, working on her development for when the time came.

To make up for the missed year, Shirley reclassified and is now recovering this season of eighth grade eligibility with LEAD Academy after working individually all last season.

But there’s one other thing Shirley had to deal with before she could comfortably play hoop in high school, and that was her type 1 diabetes.

“It doesn’t really bother me, it doesn’t really bother me, but it’s just an add-on,” Shirley said. “You have to manage it well to be an athlete.”

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To limit the risk of ketoacidosis, acidic blood circulation that leads to severe dehydration, as well as the possibility of fainting, daily measures are taken by the Lions Guard. These include monitoring his blood sugar, taking an insulin injection at night, and making sure his blood sugar is in the correct range.

With type 1 diabetes, low glucose levels can lead to impaired eyesight and a general feeling of being unwell.

Last year there was a long stretch of a few weeks where Shirley’s blood sugar was not in the target range and he was battling symptoms. He says he learned from that and now has a diet to stay healthy, especially on game days.

“On game day I have to make sure I’m well hydrated, have a big breakfast, a big lunch if it’s a night game,” Shirley said. “I just need to make sure my body is well nourished.”

Now that everything is falling into place, it’s time for Shirley to show what he’s been working on all this time.

Lucas Semb can be reached at [email protected] or 850-281-7414. Follow him on Twitter at @Lucas_Semb for stories and various Pensacola area score updates.

About Harold Shirley

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