Bringing back a story from 2004, from so long ago, what's up with that E-Woods?
People need to be reminded about that feel good story about a mentor and hero in a youngster's life, how our better angels push us on to great deeds.
Retelling this story must be the History major in me, reminding folks about our SLAM Mentor Program we started in ‘04.
I feel compelled to celebrate mentors since I've been a teacher in Cali since ‘96, that's just me.
What was The SoCal SLAM Mentor Group? It started with me reaching out to legendary SLAM Magazine writer Scoop Jackson in 2004. I told him I could make the pages of the hoop magazine come to life by running an AAU team that repped the SLAM name.
I’d invite incredible people who were helping others in the basketball community to tell their story. But not just to celebrate their skill, but share their heart for others through stories.
SLAM would jump off the pages and be called Study, Learn And Mentor. Scoop said "Go for it, as long as you stress the edu (education), keep stressing it."
The AAU team didn't last long or play many tournaments but our roster of players all made D1 programs and some went on to the NBA. We had a dozen adult and youth members committed to being mentors.
We'd brainstorm ideas to help others in the basketball community in need of encouragement.
For example, UCLA bound Jordan Farmar and I came up with an idea for him to help share SAT prep info with Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt (who were both headed to USC) helping them improve 33% higher scores in a few months to qualify for their USC scholarships.
J-Farmar, who was mature for his age, realized that you need to give 100% to beat a cross town college rival on the court. But our better angels come out by showing your cross town-humanity off the court, as you strive to help people achieve their full potential.
When's the last time you heard of a kid working to help his future rival get eligible to play vs. him? Really tho, how dope is that?
2004, it's time to pick a SoCal SLAM Mentor of the Year and give him some gear, write a story to inspire the world. But who should it be I asked myself?
"He's that dude", I told myself. That when he walks into a gym, all eyes are on him because he's a gamer, but he's also that guy who gets everyone's respect.
I remember when Dino Smiley, Commissioner of The Drew League in 2004, told me a story about a guy he respected so much because he paid to get the bleachers replaced at the Drew League.
And how this guy helped a homeless kid named JJ who attended his camp for youth during the day but slept in the family car by night. This guy's story I needed to know about. He empathized for JJ and he couldn't imagine another cold night for him like that.
After Dino told him about JJ's difficulty, this person did something to become a hero of mine. He put bread in Dino's pocket and said, "We have to get his family into a motel, help them find housing.
That's a real one to the world, that's the dude I need to celebrate.
The person I picked to be SLAM Mentor of the Year? His high school coach Daryl Roper told me how as a young man at Crossroads he wrote a paper on how'd he'd change the world when he became an adult.
Yes, unequivocally if you haven't already guessed who I picked yet, it was Baron Davis at age 26. He was the perfect person to highlight as The SLAM Mentor of the Year because I knew he would always rep on and off the court the best in what we all could be.
B-Davis recently formed The Black Santa Clothing line, explaining his reasoning in a recent Source Interview, "For me it was more so I wanted to present a positive character, a positive African-American character for us, for the culture.
“I thought that the traditional Santa was played out and Christmas needed some soul and it would be dope if we started seeing the world through Black Santa’s point of view because his world and his people are more diverse."
That's Baron, acting global but finding kids to help one on one, -like he did with Dash Harris Jr, as I detailed in this story.
Fast forward to 2017.
I meet two ballers that carry that same level of respect, whether I'm seeing them at The Drew or Air West League. All eyes are on them because they command respect for how they ball, yet also for how they help others.
If I only told you about how they dissect defenses and distribute assists, or how they rise up 45 inches off the ground for electrifying dunks, that'd only be telling half these guys’ real stories.
#Real ones for 2017
Hear in his own words how former U of Colorado player S-Sharpe is making that effort to mentor and assist, "Jalen Hill is that special youngster I mentor. I think he can be a great baller because of his potential. He's like a lil bro to me and went to my high school of Corona Centennial. He has all the physical tools and can jump out the gym.
“I remind him the key to being successful at UCLA is not to get too high or too low. Ignore the noise and just focus on the work. That ability to focus will help you be the best you can be."
I asked Shannon what he thought of B-Davis. He said "Baron is 'that guy' in SoCal that everyone looks up to because he does so much for the community.”
I asked A-Biglow to tell which person he's been proud to mentor lately, "My cousin Kejuan Flaggan. It's been great to work out together and help him. I remember the older guys that helped me growing up before going to Montana State. Guys like Pooh Jeter and Bobby Brown.
“They showed me how to carry myself. So I emulated that and tried to pass it down to my cousin. I remind Kejuan to ask the coaches questions, have them break down what you're trying to accomplish together. That's the best thing I can do for him."
#Real One. 100
I ran into NBA Raptor DeMar DeRozan a lil bit ago. He balled for the SLAM team as an 8th grader and I hadn't seen him since ‘05. I told him it was dope to see him get his "dunk on in the L" but what impressed me as much was that he established his SLAM Dunk Book Club for school kids in Toronto.
That’s him supporting a place where kids can Study to succeed, Learn to dream, AND Mentor them to success. That made me really proud.
I asked DeMar if he still has his gear from ‘05, he said "Yes sir, it's in my closet."
I feel so strongly to celebrate Antonio and Shannon. Both these guys are nearly age 28, the age I first met B-Davis. In 13 years I'll probably ask them, “Y'all still got your gear for repping the SLAM mentors?
I'm really confident they'll be doing great things for the community.
But the only question I have left is, since I started this program to inspire others, what have you, or will you have done in the next 13 years to help others Study, Learn, And Mentor in your community?