Inspiring Players to Shine

Head basketball coaches La’Keisha Sutton and Ben Luber were drawn to George School for different reasons, but their underlying motivation is the same: both have committed to giving back to the sport they love.

“George School is a place where I love to come to work each day,” said Ben. “It has provided me an opportunity to create something that I had a vision for.”

La’Keisha and Ben come from Division One basketball careers. La’Keisha played for the University of South Carolina (USC) Gamecocks, where she scored nearly 1,300 points and helped to lead the team to its first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance. Ben was a four-year starting point guard for the Penn State Nittany Lions and went on to play professional basketball in Israel and Iceland. He spent ten years coaching Division One basketball at Binghamton and Rider Universities.

While neither aspired to coach at the high school level, when the opportunity to join the George School community arose both jumped at the chance. As coaches, they share a common philosophy of focus on the whole scholar-athlete, an approach that fits perfectly into the mission of the school.

“I never thought I’d coach high school basketball,” remembers Ben. Competing against two older brothers from as early as second grade, he worked hard to make a path for himself all the way to Penn State. “Once the ball stopped bouncing, I had to take a hard look to see what would be next,” he said. “I looked at other career paths but was drawn to giving back and helping players develop. I found that I loved working with kids.”

After USC, La’Keisha went on to play professionally overseas for Taiwan, Finland, Ecuador, Germany, and Bulgaria. She gained a deep appreciation of other cultures. She returned to the United States to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and was the first woman from New Jersey to play for the world-renowned team. While she loved the global nature of her career, she nonetheless felt drawn to return home to share her experience and the wisdom she gained with young people in her neighborhood. In addition to coaching at George School, she runs the Fan Favorite Club, a hub for youth development in Trenton, NJ, and works with the city’s recreation department to rehabilitate outdoor basketball courts in the city parks. And in all of her work, she seeks to provide young players with mentorship to help them learn and grow as individuals.

“La’Keisha cares so much about me as a person,” explains player Ava Gregorio ’25. “I never expected to be a varsity-level player when I first tried out, but she saw potential in me that I didn’t even see in myself at that point.”

“I saw Ava’s heart and work ethic and knew I could teach her how to play basketball,” La’Keisha said. “A big part of my coaching is about embracing individual creativity and style. If a shot is off, I won’t tell that player to stop shooting. Instead, we’ll talk it through and try again.”

Ben approaches coaching in the same way he approached his own development as a player: showing up, working on fundamentals, and studying the greats. Both he and La’Keisha hold routine 6:00 a.m. team workouts each week, and their coaching extends into lessons about healthy eating, balancing and managing time, and keeping academics first.

“Every player is different,” said Ben. “Knowing who they are as individuals and making sure you are on the same page with them in terms of what they want to accomplish is key to helping them fulfill their goals.”

Led by Director of Athletics Kurt Ruch, Ben, La’Keisha and all of the George School coaching staff directly connect their coaching philosophy and practice to the mission of the school. Building rosters of committed scholar-athletes, teammates learn quickly that their success comes in building one another up.

“Our players don’t put their ego above their peers,” Ben explains. “We are here to help each other get better every day, and to enjoy playing together.”

“Each player brings something special to the team,” adds La’Keisha. “As coaches, our job is to help them all shine.”

“I really appreciate everyone that is helping us build something special here,” said Ben. “We always want to get better—as individuals, as a team, and as a school—and I love the challenge in front of us.”

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