Hornets players, coaches fund college scholarships in response to Charlotte unrest

BY RICK BONNELL, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

The Charlotte Hornets players and coaches knew they wanted to do something in response to the unrest in Charlotte in the fall. But they didn’t want to do just anything.

Months of thought and research later, the Hornets will fund two $60,000 college scholarships and establish a mentoring program for those two scholarship winners.

Point guard Kemba Walker, power forward Marvin Williams and coach Steve Clifford were the driving forces in this gesture.

The Charlotte Hornets players and coaches knew they wanted to do something in response to the unrest in Charlotte in the fall. But they didn’t want to do just anything.

Months of thought and research later, the Hornets will fund two $60,000 college scholarships and establish a mentoring program for those two scholarship winners.

Point guard Kemba Walker, power forward Marvin Williams and coach Steve Clifford were the driving forces in this gesture.

“We wanted to help someone not have to worry about (the cost), to do well and build a career.”

With contributions from the players, the coaches, the Hornets’ charitable foundation and the NBA, this program will fund two scholarships for current Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school seniors. Each scholarship will provide $15,000 annually for up to four years at a North Carolina public university.

In addition, the Hornets plan a mentoring program to oversee the progress of the students awarded these scholarships.

“In the aftermath of the protests here (in reaction to the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott), and really all around the country, there was talk in our league about how players and coaches – entire organizations – could help in the communities,” Clifford said.

“The guys came to me – Kemba was really the leader of it – and said they’d come up with an idea they thought would be impactful. That was to start a scholarship fund, where they would contribute, and find deserving students to hopefully change their lives.

“I’m really proud of them. This can be a great thing.”

Students interested in the scholarships can apply on-line at hornets.com starting Tuesday. Criteria to be considered:

▪  Be a Charlotte-Mecklenburg senior graduating from an accredited high school this year.

▪  Earn a minimum 2.5 grade-point average

▪  Demonstrate need for financial assistance.

▪  Plan to enroll full-time in a North Carolina public university in the fall in a bachelor or associate degree program.

Williams left North Carolina after his freshman season to turn pro and be a top-five NBA pick. He attended summer school in Chapel Hill each of 10 offseasons to complete his bachelor’s degree. He says the opportunity to help others get an education is the best gesture he and his teammates could address.

“With everything going on during the protests, and various athletes speaking up, trying to create a positive change, this is our way of showing that change: Helping kids get an education,” said Williams, who graduated in December with a major in African-American studies.

“Education is so big to everyone in our locker room, really everyone in the Hornets organization. We felt like this was our chance” to make a difference.

Williams said he is particularly excited about the mentoring aspect of this program.

“That’s the best thing about it: To build a relationship with a kid about to go to college. Paying for an education, that’s great, but a lot of our guys want to be more hands-on. And Cliff, too, he’s a big part of this: He said he’d love to help get kids acclimated to the college environment.”

Center Spencer Hawes, the Hornets’ representative to the players association, said the beauty of this gesture is it’s about more than writing a check.

“Everyone talks about bringing a community together – to bridge the gap and bring all the sides together. It’s easy to talk about that, but actually finding solutions can be more difficult.

“We all agreed, to a man, that the best way to do that was through an educational initiative. How can we really change someone’s life? An opportunity not just to better themselves but better their families going forward.

“We all agreed education was the way to that path.”

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nba/charlotte-hornets/article128218564.html