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Boston Kids See What They Can Become at Summer Clinic

August 16, 2010 Columns No Comments

ROXBURY, Mass. – For the second straight year, the Boston Athletes United For Change put together its The Dream is Real Clinic, held at Madison Park High School. BAUC is basically a coalition of influential people in the city that have come together to put this on for younger basketball players, as some high school players were among the participants but there was a large pre-high school presence.

While the organizers got a number of individual donations that helped, The Boston Foundation had a big hand in making it happen. A large philanthropic group in the city, it was instrumental from a financial standpoint, and Robert Lewis, Jr. addressed the athletes about giving back, a constant theme surrounding the event.

The event featured some who grew up playing basketball in the city and went on to college, as well as coaches in the area. It’s a way for those who grew up in the city to give back, in some cases while still in college. They ranged from former college players Tony Lee and Kenny Jackson to current players Kyle Casey (Harvard) and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut).

While the event featured plenty of instruction for the players, as well as games to play in, the biggest part of the day was teaching about intangibles and off-court matters. The young players heard three people speak about various aspects of life on and off the court, in addition to having much to draw from with those who ran the event.

The first speaker was Napier, who grew up in Mission Hill and is entering his freshman year at Connecticut. He talked about how he grew as a player from a relative unknown into a stud point guard, emphasizing his knowledge of the game. Indeed, Napier always had talent and at one point had shown he could knock down plenty of shots from deep, but he never reached the elite level until he started making teammates better and becoming a winning player. It was no accident that as he got better, he helped lead Lawrence Academy to a perfect season.

The second speaker was a powerful one for the young players. Tom Nelson, who most recently coached at Framingham State and just started the New England Ballas program a few months ago, is actually from Los Angeles but has been in the area for most of his life. Nelson’s background had nothing working to his advantage, from family issues to being in the crime-ridden South Central section of the city. As he told the young players, he could have gone in two directions, with one of them being to join the gangs. Instead, he fought his way out of it, but unlike many who have played basketball who survive and then thrive, he didn’t do it with basketball first. It was his academics that opened the door to Phillips Academy in Andover, a top-notch prep school clear across the country, and ultimately to Holy Cross.

Last, but not least, former Charlestown High and Robert Morris star Tony Lee spoke. He offered his perspective on going to a school that not many people know much about because it’s not in the Big East or ACC, as well as playing basketball professionally outside the confines of the NBA.

All three speakers helped people like Claude Pritchard and event director John Jackson drive home the message about education to the kids. Even a player with a good college career like Tony Lee didn’t make the NBA and almost certainly never will, and even those who make it need something to fall back on when their career is over. This gave the kids a real live look at life after basketball and a further message that basketball can’t be the only thing in their lives.

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