Legends Spotlight: Marcus Liberty and Kelly Schumacher

May 23, 2016

Last Saturday the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at The Police Athletic League of Tampa, FL, including Marcus Liberty and Kelly Schumacher. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA/WNBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Marcus and Kelly about their roles with the Full Court Press program and their time in the pros.

Marcus Liberty
What is your role with the Full Court Press program? We did some basketball drills and I got to share some of my life lessons with the kids.
What was your favorite highlight from the clinic? Just looking at the enjoyment on the kids’ faces made my day!
What is your coaching philosophy on the court? It is all about teaching them to compete. When I see a kid get it and learn from the drills I give them, it makes me feel really good. You have to learn the fundamentals, master them, and have some fun.
What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I know for a fact that when kids get to meet former players in person it is neat. When you see them come up after the clinic to get an autograph and ask questions, you know that you are connecting with them.
What was your transition like from basketball player to retired player? It has been great: I do not have to worry about the wear and tear on my body anymore. You have to find your niche in the real world and figure out what you are good at.
Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? They have the resources to help you figure out what to do in retirement. The NBA is a fraternity so when I became a member I knew that I would get to see some friends at events who I have not seen in a while like Acie Earl/Willie Burton. It is great to catch up on these friendships due to the bond we all have of playing in the NBA.
Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to players who are embarking on life after basketball? I think it is very important if you want to go back and get your degree, or if you need health insurance, or want to establish connections to do speaking engagements. It gives you a great platform.
In what ways has your involvement in the NBRPA helped you become an advocate to other retired players? Kenny Battle was 1 of the players who told me to join and helped get me involved. I did not want to get involved at 1st but then I realized that it was definitely the place to be. Some players are unsure whether the NBRPA cares about former players but I can tell you that they do.
You have accomplished so many things on the court, but what do you seek to accomplish off the court? I want to do bigger and better things and cannot wait to see what my next 20 years will be like: I am very excited.
After transferring to Chicago's Martin Luther King High School in 1984 you helped lead your team to an IHSA state title in 1986: what did it mean to you to win a title? Chicago is 1 of those cities that loves basketball so I wanted to be a winner. I did whatever it took for our team to be successful: we won 2 city titles and 1 state title so I think we did a great job.
In 1987 you were named a McDonald's All-American: which of your fellow honorees impressed you the most (Larry Johnson/Mark Macon/Dennis Scott)? We had a bunch of great players that year: Chris Corchiani, Rodney Monroe, Sean Higgins, etc. Sean and I became close friends by going to elite camps together and we still keep in touch to this day. I just talked to Mark Macon the other day: basketball gives you bonds that last a lifetime.
Take me through the 1989 NCAA tourney as a player at Illinois:
How was your team able to make it to the Final 4 despite not having a starter taller than 6’7”? I get asked that question a lot! We all had 1 common goal of winning a title: the key is getting everyone on the same page to try and make the university proud. I think we had 1 of the best teams in school history.
Although you swept Michigan in the regular season by double-digits each time, your fellow 1987 McDonald's All-American Sean Higgins made a put-back with 2 seconds left in a 2-PT win by eventual-champion Michigan: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It was devastating. We beat Michigan twice that season pretty handily but they were ready when it counted. The ball bounced the right way and Sean put it in and they ended up winning it all. We did not put our heads down: we were a good team.
You ended up playing 4 years with Denver/Detroit: what is your favorite memory from your time in the NBA? When I go out and talk I like to discuss my career. Growing up a lot of kids dream about making the NBA, but a lot of people do not understand that you also need the dream of staying in the NBA once you make it. I loved playing in the NBA: it was a great experience.
You currently run a YMCA league in Florida and also hold camps/individual coaching sessions: how do you like it, and what do you hope to do in the future? I love mentoring kids so this is definitely my path. I enjoy being a high school coach and would like to be a college coach someday. When my players perform the way I expect them to it is a great feeling.

Kelly Schumacher
What is your role with the Full Court Press program? I just became an NBRPA member so I was unsure of my exact role but we helped run stations at the camp and spoke to some kids.
What was your favorite highlight from the clinic? I liked watching them play toward the end: some of them really impressed me on the court rather than when they are just working on 1 individual skill at a station. It was also nice that they all wanted to stay on the court: nobody wanted to sub out!
What is your coaching philosophy on the court? I just want everyone to work hard while I teach clean techniques/focus for what you are trying to accomplish. I was teaching shooting today and explaining that you have to zero in on the target.
What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I hope they remember 1 or 2 things that I taught them, be it a skill on the court or how important it is to get good grades in the classroom.
What was your transition like from basketball player to retired player? This is my very 1st event so that is a tough question. It was different for me because I went right into playing beach volleyball so I did not feel like a retired player. I go back to the Final 4 each year to watch UConn play and we also have an alumni game for “legends”, so that is when it becomes more real.
Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? I initially heard about it at the Final 4, had an opportunity to work at this camp, and thought it would be fun to do.
Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to players who are embarking on life after basketball? I think it can be very beneficial. I plan on attending the conference in Vegas, which will help with the transition to a job/career after basketball. I have been doing a little basketball/volleyball commentating for the University of Miami and would also like to get into coaching.
In what ways has your involvement in the NBRPA helped you become an advocate to other retired players? Just talking to other players who I have things in common with will help: the connection towards achieving your goals is important. It is nice to be around people who have been through the same things I have and understand me: it was a part of my life that I have been missing during the past few years while I played volleyball.
You have accomplished so many things on the court, but what do you seek to accomplish off the court? I would like to pass on my knowledge of the game. I played pro basketball for 8 years and I learned a lot of tricks of the trade. I played overseas so I have an open mind to learning the sport. I want to pass down some things and help younger players reach their goals even earlier.
You went to high school in Canada: how did you get into basketball, and what made you choose UConn? I played a little of everything in high school but really loved basketball and volleyball. I ended up going the basketball route because my friends on that team spoke English and most of the volleyball team spoke French. I do not mind speaking French but my English was much stronger after growing up in Cincinnati. I got recruited to play for UConn, which was 1 of the few colleges I actually got to watch on TV, so I felt that it was 1 of the best schools that I could go to.
In the 2000 NCAA title game you set a women's Final 4 record with 9 BLK in a win over Tennessee: were you out for revenge since your only regular season loss was to the Volunteers by 1 PT, and what is the key to blocking shots? I remember them being our main rival at the start of my career (before Note Dame took over that role) so we really wanted to beat them and were out for revenge. I did a lot of mental preparation for that game: I kept thinking about how to rotate and how the game would go, which really helped me. Blocking shots takes timing/jumping but I was also ready to help/rotate. You also need your teammates to rotate over to your own man: it is a team effort.
You are a 2-time WNBA champ:You won your 1st title in 2007 with Phoenix: how hard was it to become the 1st team in WNBA history to clinch a title on the road in Game 5, and how did you like playing with fellow Husky alum Diana Taurasi? Diana and I played together for 1 year in college so it was nice to reconnect as pros. She is an all-around amazing player/person. I loved Phoenix and Paul Westhead was a great coach for us: he is calm, loyal, and supported us 100%. We had all the pieces to the puzzle and everything clicked for us: we had short/sweet practices.
The following year you won another title with Detroit (who you beat in the 2007 Finals): what was it like playing for Bill Laimbeer/Rick Mahorn, and how weird was it to host the decisive Game 3 at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center due to a scheduling conflict at the Palace? I thought that I would never want to play for Bill after facing him in the Finals the previous year. I just had knee surgery and thought about retiring to play beach volleyball but he called me up and said he wanted me to play for Detroit. There was a big brawl that July between LA and Detroit with 4-5 players from each team who ended up getting suspended. After the brawl Bill left me a long message saying that he really needed me, so after marinating on it for a couple of weeks my trainer (now husband) said I was ready and I signed with Detroit. It was a completely different experience from Phoenix. Bill would fight for us and it was a really good family atmosphere: Rick was also fun to be around and a great teacher of how to play in the post. If I played bad they would tell me I sucked: I liked it because there was never any doubt about what was expected. It was weird to play at EMU but when you can taste the championship it does not matter where you play.
You are currently playing pro beach volleyball: which sport do you like the most, and will we see you playing for team USA this summer in Rio? I like both sports so it is hard to pick 1 over the other but volleyball is much easier on my body. When you play 1 sport for a while and then pick up the ball of another sport, it is very refreshing. I wish that I could play in Rio but I have not earned enough points.