YATESVILLE — Lance Allred was not blessed with extreme basketball talent. The road to his goals wasn’t an easy one, but with hard work and principles of perseverance, he made everything happen.
Now, Allred shares those techniques as a motivational speaker.
The first legally deaf player to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Allred spoke in the Pittston Area High School auditorium Tuesday to student-athletes from Pittston Area, Wyoming Area, Lake-Lehman, Coughlin, Meyers, GAR and Northwest.
Following his presentation at the high school, Allred was the keynote speaker at the Luzerne Intermediate Unit’s “Hear, Now & Forever Conference” at the Mohegan Sun Conference Center in Wilkes-Barre.
“The essence of leadership is perseverance,” Allred said Tuesday morning. “We all have disabilities and 6-11 only gets you so far.”
A 6-11 center, Allred played for approximately 14 months for the Cleveland Cavaliers, overcoming his 80 percent hearing deficiency along the way. His speech, “Leg Up,” was directed toward student-athletes in the crowd, and based upon his five Principles of Perseverance: Accountability, Compassion, Discomfort, Becoming a Leader and the most important, he said, Integrity.
Pittston Area senior Patrick Mitchell, a center on the high school’s basketball team, said he will take many of the things Allred told the crowd and use them in his everyday life, including setting life goals.
Standing at 6-4, Mitchell was the second tallest person in the room Tuesday. He said the presentation will help him be a leader on the court.
“He taught us you have to work for what you get in life,” the senior said. “No one is going to give you anything. If you work hard, you will get that one shot to do what you want.”
While being deaf, Allred still had to communicate with his teammates and coaches while playing basketball. After struggling to play with hearing aids, he decided to play without them at a young age. He used hand signals and read lips to understand the other nine players’ movements on the court.
“Communication is a big part of basketball so we can work as a unit,” Mitchell said.
Allred told students about his life growing up in a small town in Montana, all the way up to his playing days for the Cavaliers. The road wasn’t always easy for the now-retired NBA player as he didn’t start on his high school team until he was a junior. Later, he played at the University of Utah before transferring to Weber State.
He played overseas in Turkey and Spain before earning his spot in the NBA’s Developmental League with the Idaho Stampede before getting his chance with the Cavs in 2008. Allred told the students during that time, he was bullied because of his deafness, and later overcame Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the constant bullying he faced at a younger age.
“I just wanted to be normal and wanted to fit in,” Allred told the crowd. “If you’re not normal, you must be a leader.”
Wyoming Area junior Sarah Holweg, who was second in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 in scoring last season with 20 points per game, was in attendance with other basketball players and student-athletes from Wyoming Area.
Allred touched on setting goals throughout one’s life, which Holweg said she will take to heart.
“That was a very good life lesson,” she said. “If you want something, you should never give up and keep chasing it.”
Holweg led the Wyoming Valley Conference in three-pointers as a sophomore. So what does she think of Allred’s jumper?
“Yeah, it wasn’t bad,” she laughed.
Admittedly, Allred talked about making himself useful by utilizing the bank shot on the court, so much so that his first free throw attempt for the Cavaliers was banked in.
“Two points is two points, any way you can get it,” Mitchell said, causing laughter to break out across the auditorium. “It looks the same in the paper as it does on the stat sheets.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick