It is a testament to our community that our youth want to return for visits long after they've left the comforts of our neighborhoods to explore the world.
Our children are nurtured and raised in our community's extended family network of parents, teachers and mentors. It was that same draw for Ian O'Leary, who has relatives in Alamo and visited often from his home not far away in Woodland. He chose St. Mary's College to study there and play basketball, even though he had his choice of Stanford, UCLA, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Yale and nearly 45 other Division 1 schools.
While a student at St. Mary's in Moraga, he met a local young lady named Jennifer Rodd, who was raised in Danville and attended San Ramon Valley High and went on to St. Mary's after graduating in 2005. Ian says that being mentored throughout his college years by his uncle, Steve Beck, of Alamo, helped him to become the successful player, husband and father he is today.
Ian graduated in 2009 from St. Mary's with a degree in kinesiology and a religious studies minor. That same year, he and Jennifer married, and in 2012 they had their son, Carson, who was born in Spain, where Ian has played professional basketball for the past four years.
"Carson will eventually have dual citizenship. I speak Spanish almost fluently, and Jenny is learning and understanding well. We hope Carson will speak fluently by about 3 years old," said Ian.
He has played in Vigo, Oviedo, Palencia and Valladolid, Spain, and just signed a contract to play in Gran Canaria. Ian was MVP of the league in Oviedo and top 15 in all major stats over the last two years in his league. I spoke with Steve, and he told me it was a pleasure watching his nephew grow into adulthood. Steve then sent an email about Ian and the time they spent together.
"In today's world, college basketball players from elite programs are ushered into the life of a playboy on campus. Ian wanted to take a different path. We met weekly for years, and it became clear to me that Ian's father and mother had passed along a deep strength, a type of fortitude that kept him focused on the right things through the college years and beyond.
"Through our meetings, I added in a bit of encouragement to watch his dreams move through the vicissitudes and challenges of injuries, coaching conflicts and performance ups and downs to eventually become reality," wrote Steve.
I also chatted with Ian and Jennifer, who are in the area visiting while Ian has time off, although he manages daily workouts and hoop sessions at St. Mary's and other courts. He and Jen always come back to our little neck of the woods to catch up with family and friends.
"Danville and Alamo are like no other place I have ever been. The weather, people and energetic environment combined with the quality restaurants and shopping make it a spectacular place to be," said Ian.
Jennifer agreed. "I was so blessed to grow up in such a tight-knit community like Danville. Even though we are gone nine months a year, coming home is always special, and I am able to pick up where I left off and stay connected to our wonderful family and friends," she said.
Ian's uncle, Steve, summed it up best when he told me, "Ian has spread his wings and blossomed into a top professional athlete in the second strongest global market in the world. What a fantastic example of real manhood," he said.
No doubt some of the credit goes to the loving care this wonderful uncle from Alamo bestowed upon him.
"All through college I met weekly with my uncle for Bible studies and to discuss how to make good decisions," added Ian.
I think it has paid off! Good luck on the court, Ian and until you come back next year, safe travels!
Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.