It’s 10 a.m. Saturday when the young, aspiring basketball players of Hank Gathers Recreation Center trickle into the gymnasium.
By 11 a.m., practice has started. The gym is full as coaches Rodney Richardson and George Major order push-ups and suicides to warm up.
The Hank Gathers basketball program has seen its successes including participants and NBA players (and twin brothers) Marcus and Markieff Morris and Temple’s Rhodes Scholar Hazim Hardeman.
Although the program has been around for years, nine months ago Richardson and Major decided to add a mentorship aspect. They wanted the program to be bigger than basketball. Now, it’s also a support system for the neighborhood’s kids.
Here are five young players in the new mentorship basketball program who are heading down a path toward their own success stories.
Nyon, an eighth-grader at William Dick School, has dreams of playing Division I basketball.
He practices every day after school at the Hank Gathers Community Center. He considers the center the place that has encouraged him to be a better student and basketball player. This quarter, Nyon received all A’s on his report card. His favorite subjects are reading and math, which he takes in the honors program.
“(The basketball program) got me better,” he said. “It made me pay attention in school more. The speeches they give us motivate us. The workouts make you better and stronger.”
A ninth-grader at Vaux High School, Shawn’s goals are simple: succeed in school, get a scholarship and go to college where he hopes to play basketball. His end goal is to play professional basketball, but for now, he’s focused on school..
“The staff — they always help me to get up if I’m doing bad,” he said. “They’re always here to talk to me.”
Shawn is at every Saturday practice. He spends most days after school in the gym with his friends.
“They always give us a free gym because they want us to get better and they want us to go somewhere in life,” he said. “They care, actually.”
Stephano shares Shawn’s dreams of college and professional basketball. Right now, he has his eye on Temple University, Duke University, University of Kentucky and the University of Connecticut.
Stephano has found that basketball motivates him. Last marking period he had a C, but this upcoming report card he expects all A’s.
“I’m doing very well because my mom and my coaching staff,” he said. “My family and friends keep pushing me to be square and go hard.”
Michael, a ninth-grader at Roman Catholic High School, grew up around the corner from the Hank Gathers Recreation Center. He considers the center his whole life.
Throughout his life, the basketball program and staff at Hank Gathers has help shape his attitude toward school, his love for basketball, and, most important to him, the kind of person he has become.
“It has always taught me to respect adults and be a good kid,” he said. “I do well in school so when I get older, if this basketball stuff doesn’t work out, I can get a job.”
Mikeil Bryant, a ninth-grader at Microsoft’s School of the Future, loves basketball, football and learning. He said the basketball program has provided a place to work on his basketball skills and find his footing in the neighborhood.
“There’s people I can trust here,” he said. “There’s good mentoring here. It keeps me out of trouble.”
— Text and Photos by Jennifer Kerrigan and Kait Moore.