On Friday evening, six members of the Rattler basketball squad totally embraced the opportunity to play along with and coach the youth, in a tournament that was the highlight event of the weekend. Amin Stevens, Chris Watson, Isaac Brown, Avery Moore, Brandon Hosley and Yannick Crowder drafted their teams from the audience in a selection process and played a "Round Robin" tournament on the Fregly Center court.
Each basketball player introduced themselves and told the kids their hometowns and majors. The players then gave advice to the youth, emphasizing the difference in being a kid in a community center and a college athlete is a dedication to a cause. The players certainly understood their purpose for being at the event.
Local favorite, Avery Moore, garnered the most applause at his introduction because the young men followed his success at Rickards High School. "What we're trying to do is give back to our community. There are kids out there that don't have someone like a big brother to help guide them or somebody to look up to. We just came out to support the effort of the housing authority. I understand that kids look at me as a role model, but I want to show them that I came from the same place as they did. I just worked my way up because I had people who looked out for me as I was coming up," said Moore.
At several points in the basketball games, it was obvious the Rattler basketball players were having as much fun or more than the kids. Their expression said it all. Evidence of this can be viewed in the photo gallery attached to the story.
Chris Watson, verified this in saying, "It's a pleasure helping the younger kids and we're having a good time out here. I know they'll gain inspiration and courage from our visit. Just like them, I came from the projects...came from a hard road and I used basketball as my outlet."
While the winning team of the tournament was an irrelevant issue, because the tournament was all about teamwork, the kids showed a determination that can be used to propel them far in the future. The staff of the retreat enjoyed the game as well. To staffers, it proved that they made the right decision to host the lock-in.
After an overnight stay in the center, the boys woke up to guests including Commissioner Andrew Gillum, County Commissioner Nick Maddox, Dr. Ken Fowler and members of the Rattler Football team.
Gillum, put on a brief forum about young men presenting themselves in a positive manner. He taught the kids how to do execute a proper handshake, how to sit and how to stand in proper posture to exude confidence. The young men used the handshaking technique for the remainder of the day.
The Rattler football players, were the center of attention on the Saturday morning session. Players included Kevin Elliott, Anthony Shutt, Shelly Anthony, Brandon Curry, Trevor Scott, Austin Trainor and Jerry Willis.
The football players introduced themselves to the kids and broke off into small discussion groups. Nothing was off limits for the kids to ask in the forums. The players wanted to keep it informative, but real to the kids.
Anthony Shutt, felt the experience was fulfilling. "It was a really good experience. I have a lot of young family members like them, and with no leadership, most have been in trouble with hanging around the wrong group. Talking to them about how athletics brought us a scholarship for us to pursue our dreams was interesting to them."
Amin Stevens, summed up the weekend saying, "It feels good to have the opportunity to show kids the right path. Hopefully this will help them stay out of trouble and encourage them to go to school. Hopefully they want to go to college and possibly play a sport, but it is important that they have an avenue to direct their energy."