Written by Jordan Cohn '19
More than 100 young athletes flooded the court at the Boston Celtics' training facility in March 2018. It was a special day for this enthusiastic group of fans, as the Celtics' junior NBA clinic provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive skills training from the best in the business and a glimpse into a professional facility. NBA players, trainers, and coaches led the kids through various drills, and trainers utilized different techniques to allow for the most comprehensive experience.
One group of trainers present was Unleashed Potential. Hailing from central Pennsylvania with humble beginnings, the specialized group made the most of the opportunity to showcase their unique program and assisted with the clinic that day. For former Franklin & Marshall women's basketball standout Alexa Barbush '13, seeing the championship banners and the determined young players brought her basketball story full circle.
The F&M Experience
When Barbush stepped on the court in Mayser Gymnasium for the first time as a Diplomat in 2009, Centennial Conference coaches and fans alike knew there was a bright future ahead for the Etters, Pa., native. Barbush had been a four-year varsity starter for a perennial top-10 Pennsylvania team at Trinity High School. Finishing her high school career with two Mid-Penn Conference First-Team selections and All-Pennsylvania recognition, Barbush's potential to make an immediate impact was evident.
"She had this relentless competitiveness and fierce determination right from the start," recalled F&M Head Coach Kirsten Richter. "You could see it defensively. We had high expectations."
She didn't disappoint. Barbush was a star on both sides of the court, finishing her debut season as the team's third-leading scorer and swiping a team-high 77 steals. An absence of seniors allowed Barbush to assume a role of responsibility as she grew as a person and player.
The subsequent years saw Barbush shatter program records, including the single-season mark for steals with an astounding 105, and receive a CC Player of the Year Award her junior year to go along with two All-America nods.
"At the end of the day, my accolades are great, but my relationships are the most important takeaways from my collegiate career," said Barbush. "I'm proud of my All-America honors, and it's cool to be a member of the 1,000-point club. But what I value most from my F&M days can't be expressed in those stats."
For Barbush, the relationships fostered by the F&M environment combined with the incredibly diverse curriculum to provide invaluable experience.
"The most beneficial aspect about my liberal arts education was the freedom I had to meet new people and explore opportunities I might not have necessarily known I was interested in," noted Barbush.
Arriving in Lancaster with plans to major in business, organizations, and society, Barbush took a psychology class early on and found a new calling.
"I took a few psychology classes and fell in love with the field," said Barbush. "I did it because I liked it. I didn't want to be an artist, but I took a few art classes because I enjoyed it. I was like many others in that I didn't know what I wanted to do, but doing what you enjoy always works out in the long run."
Back to Basketball
It eventually came together for Barbush her senior year, who began laying the groundwork for her career after playing basketball alongside her future husband, Jordan. Jordan's father ran the National Youth Basketball Division for 24 Hour Fitness, and the three of them came together and started a basketball training company, Unleashed Potential.
The organization has grown from a small, Pennsylvania-oriented company into a national phenomenon. Barbush's father-in-law, Joe Stasyszyn, often referred to as "Mr. S" by Barbush and many of his followers, relayed his background to Barbush, and she has taken his valuable training and has run with it.
"We train individuals, small groups, high school teams, and more through unique and thorough sessions," explained Barbush. "Mr. S gives speeches for USA Basketball as well, so Jordan and I follow along for those and learn so much."
Barbush, remembered by Richter as one of the most astute players she's ever coached, continually learns from the game and develops her training tactics based on her experiences. A brief stint as an assistant coach at Dickinson College allowed her to follow up on her playing experiences with an equally important perspective.
"There's definitely a line between coach and player that should be established, but I think it's incredibly important to be a person and a friend first and foremost, and a coaching figure second," said Barbush.
Barbush described Unleashed Potential as a program that differentiates itself from others due to the all-encompassing programs that efficiently develop several facets of a player's game.
"We not only train basketball skills, but we also develop the underappreciated elements of the game," explained Barbush. "Movement training, speed, agility, quickness, proper movements: all of this is just as important as your shot and your ball-handling ability."
National and International Success
Barbush and the Stasyszyn family are proud to train all of the teams within one of the most prominent AAU Associations in Pennsylvania, Mid Penn Motion. However, they also travel all over the country.
"We've been up to Canada, down to Memphis, out west to Los Angeles, and we may even be joining Mr. S on a visit to Italy for a camp this year," explained Barbush.
The aforementioned Boston Celtics experience was a highlight for Barbush and the rest of Unleashed Potential.
"We checked out the gyms, the weight rooms, and so much more of the facility," recounts Barbush. "We heard that Gordon Hayward was rehabbing his injury while we were running through drills. It was pretty surreal."
Most importantly, an impressive list of alumni demonstrates the effectiveness of Unleashed Potential's diverse programs.
"A girl we've been working with since eighth grade is going to Jacksonville University, a Division I program," said Barbush, proudly. "We've sent people to DI programs like Villanova and Delaware, to Division III programs, and have even had graduates of those schools end up playing overseas."
Josh Clippinger, an Unleashed Potential alum and Messiah College graduate, followed his years of training with the program as a player for the USA Eagles, a team that competes throughout Asia.
Barbush remains with Unleashed Potential today, but has branched out and found further success. She owes a lot of her experiences to her F&M background.
As a digital associate with Universal Media Analytics, Barbush's work includes graphic design, social media branding, and advertising for media which can be seen on billboards, television broadcasts, and elsewhere throughout the community.
"My psychology major doesn't exactly correlate with my line of work, and I'm not claiming to be a psychologist due to my background," said Barbush. "But, as with basketball, psychology helps me to learn about dealing with people, whether it's a young basketball player having a bad game or a client trying to best advertise a product."
A visit to the Mayser Center for the women's basketball alumni game in February sparked some memories and made Barbush even more thankful for her F&M experience.
"I'd give anything to be back here and go back through those old times," said Barbush. "Looking back on what may have seemed mundane at the time, like hanging out with all of my teammates when we were alone on campus over winter break makes you aware of how special the experience was.
"My advice for current students is to enjoy your time here as much as possible and try not to stress. It will all work out in the end."