For the Delta State University men’s basketball team, the players and coaches are dedicated to showing that kind of support to people all year round, especially the youth of the community. The Statesmen have been reading to elementary kids on Fridays and recently participated in the Hoop-it-Up camp for mentally and physically handicap kids through the Junior Auxiliary of Cleveland. The Statesmen also participated in the school’s Trunk-or-Treat last month. Later on in the year, the basketball team plans to hold a free clinic for youth in the community.
Delta State men’s basketball coach Jim Boone said the work in the community teaches his players valuable lessons.
“It’s important that we teach them the significance of giving back to your community,” Boone said. “So when they leave here with their degrees and hopefully a lot of success on and off the court, they will take that spirit of service and giving back and become involved in their own communities whether it’s here or somewhere else.
“It behooves us as coaches and as administrators to do our best to teach our young men and young ladies the importance of service.”
The Hoop-It-Up Camp was something that both the Statesmen and Lady Statesmen basketball teams did together.
Boone said the camp proved to be a special event for everybody involved.
“It’s so great to see those kids come out and interact with our guys and gals,” Boone said. “They take them through some drills and just basic basketball things and those kids just light up and smile from ear-to-ear.”
The reading to kids is another service that leaves a big impression on youth and the players that do the reading. Senior forward Willie Readus was scheduled to read at Pearman Elementary School on Friday.
Boone said Readus, who stands 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, makes an impression on those young kids.
“When he walks in there those kids look at him with saucer eyes,” Boone said. “They’re like ‘Wow!’ When he sits down in middle of them and he’s reading, they forget all about that and it’s about interacting with him. It’s really cool.”
According to Boone, the work with the youth in the community helps the players work well with each other.
“It’s builds camaraderie, it builds unselfishness and it builds a feeling of humbleness,” Boone said. “Humility is a great trait and sometimes the student-athletes that we get, because they have been placed on a pedestal don’t understand that. To have these opportunities and platforms to teach them humility is the very best way to get that ingrained in them.”
Sophomore guard Jack Madgen has relished the chance to help others in the community.
“I think it’s great that we get a chance to give back to the community,” Madgen said. “We get them to come out to our games, so it’s an opportunity to get back. We ran a clinic here at the beginning of the semester for kids, and I had a blast. It’s a humbling experience. You think you’re having a tough time when you’re playing a bad game or maybe you didn’t do well on a test. Working with these kids that are underprivileged really puts things into prospective. It brings a team together as well as helping other people in the community.”
With Madgen being from Williamstown, Australia, the work in the community gives him a chance to feel at home in Cleveland.
“It’s great especially when you get a little homesick,” Madgen said. “It’s good when people appreciate what you do. I’ve been away for two or three months, so it’s good to know that people care about you here as much as they do at home.”
Readus said he has enjoyed performing community service.
“For me, it’s a great experience to go and help out kids,” Readus said. “When I was younger, I didn’t have everything I wanted in life. When people I looked up to or somebody that I could potentially look up to show support at the school and spend time with me, it was very eye opening for me and made me want to do better.”