From dunking on the rims of Eastern Michigan University’s Rec/IM to being a part of the Sprite Slam Dunk Challenge during the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Weekend, Chris Staples is living out his dream but knows there are more steps to be taken in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Staples was born on Dec. 26, 1986 in Saginaw, Mich.
His first organized basketball experience was at the age of 10 when he participated in the Detroit Police Athletic League.
“I gained a lot of experience because I had never been on a true team before and learned the art of being competitive along with knowing what true teamwork was all about,” Staples said.
Staples attended Oak Park High School in Oak Park, Mich., as a freshman and then transferred to Southfield High School in Southfield, Mich.
At Southfield, he started on the junior varsity team and eventually made it to varsity in basketball.
He also played football at Southfield, where he was second team All-State.
After graduating from Southfield, Staples played football at Wayne State University for one season before transferring to EMU in 2006.
The schools Staples considered before coming to EMU were Indiana State University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo.
“I chose EMU because it was close to home and my parents moved to Belleville, which is 15 minutes from campus,” Staples said.
Staples sat out during the first season because of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s transfer rule.
The next season, he decided to pursue basketball instead of football.
“I played football since I was eight, but always wanted to play basketball,” he said.
Staples saw his cousin and current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley as a huge influence on his life.
“He [LaMarr] told me to always go after what you love to do,” Staples said.
At the time, Staples majored in sports medicine, but was ineligible to be on EMU’s basketball team.
“When you are an athletic trainer, you could not play in any of the sports and I did EMU unattainable, Staples turned to playing semi-pro basketball with the USA All-Stars of the International Basketball League in 2007.
In that time period, Staples also played in the International Basketball Association in Alabama and Eurobasket in cities such as Chicago and New York, which led to tryouts overseas.
“It was a good way to get experience and play against some of the top players overseas,” he said.
In 2012, he went to Spain for tryouts and learned to see the game from a different perspective.
“Basketball in Spain taught me that it can be played in many different ways,” he said. “When I came back from overseas, it helped me in terms of adding new dimensions to my game.”
Since returning from Spain, Staples has not had the chance to finish his undergraduate career due in large part to his constantly traveling but hopes to complete his senior year once he is able to settle down.
In Oct. 2012, Staples submitted videos to Sprite showing his best dunks performed at EMU’s REC/IM and was selected as one of the winners of the contest.
He went down to Houston, Texas. as a member of Team Sudden, which was coached by LeBron James of the Miami Heat to the Sprite Uncontainable Game as part of the National Basketball Association’s All-Star weekend.
“Not a lot of people can say that they had the experience of being coached by LeBron,” Staples said.
On June 8, Staples won the Sprite All Star Dunk Showdown in Charlotte, N.C. and took home the $2500 prize, with a chance to go to next year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. La. for a chance to win $10,000.
Retired Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins is one of the players Staples looks up to in terms of dunking.
“Dawkins was a crazy dunker and I impressed back at the Sprite Uncontainable Game,” Staples said.
This summer, Staples hopes to make contact with the Golden State Warriors to get an opportunity to work out and eventually have a chance to make the team or be recognized by other NBA teams.
The biggest role model who has made Staples into the person he is his mother Francesca.
“She is my toughest critic and it has driven me to be a perfectionist,” Staples said. “She told me that if you are going to be something in life, you might as well give it a 110 percent.”
Follow Eugene Evans on Twitter: @EasternEchoGeno.