DALLAS — LaDeitra Walker Lee grew up in inner city Memphis.
She was determined not to become a product of her environment.
To her credit, she looked to basketball as an outlet, or sorts, to aiding her to earn a free college education.
All she did, in fact, was evolve into an All-State player while starring three seasons for Whitehaven High, an accolade that ultimately caught the attention of an array of scouts.
However, as much as Lee clung to dreams of playing basketball at the collegiate level, her craftiness as a prep volleyball standout overshadowed her display as one of Shelby-Metro’s premiere players. As a result, she still managed to embrace her dream of earning an athletic schlarship and signed a National Letter of Intent to play volleyball at Jackson State University.
For Lee, who first engaged in competitive sports when she was five years old, earning a full-ride scholarship proved beneficial in a variety of aspects, in large part because she did not want to follow the same path as her parents, who lessoned their children on the importance of going to college on an athletic scholarship.
“I was involved in sports because it kept us out of trouble as kids and hopefully pay for college,” Lee said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview from Austin, Texas.
Though her lofty dreams of playing college basketball didn’t come to frution, all was not lost. As Lee tells it, she used sports as a way of eluding student loans, a trend her parents wasn’t able to avoid when they enrolled in college.
“It was extremely rewarding because I got out of college without student loans,” Lee said. “So many people get out and have so many loans to pay. My parents were like, ‘You don’t want to spend your first five years (after earning a degree) and most of your paycheck is going to cover loans.’ They were so busy paying back loans.”
It’s safe to assume that Lee’s siblings also understood the advantages that come with earning an athletic scholarship. That’s because her two older brothers managed to earn football schloraships and avoid the stress of having to repay student loans. Her oldest brother, Eric Walker, is a former standout at Arkansas State, and her middle sibling, Reginald Walker, signed a letter of intent to play at Tennessee-Martin the mid-1990s.
“That’s what my parents taught us,” Lee said of using athletics to pay for a
A little more than two decades later, Lee and her husband, Mitchell Lee — who also earned a full-ride scholarship to Jackson State — are instilling the same valuable concepts into the lives of their three children, all of whom are active in competitive sports.
The couple’s oldest son, Jaylen, 10, first became involved in athletics when he took up soccer at the age of three. He has since become a fixture in other sports, most notably basketball, football, swimming, and triathlon.
Especially the triathlon.
“He usually wins all of his triathlons or has finished in the top,” Lee said of Jaylen, whose appearances in the sport have allowed him to compete in various venues throughout the Mid-South and several cities in Texas. “And in swimming, he’s always in the top 10.”
Like his brother, the couple’s six-year-old son, Justin also has become acclimated to the triathalon, swimming, and football in recent years, although he is currently involved in recreational basketball for Austin-area YMCA. Also, their youngest child, Sanaa, 5, is an avid swimmer and soccer player who is now starting to flourish as an amateur cheerleader and dancer.
Generally, although LaDeitra Lee said her children participate in sports for a combined 40 hours on a weekly basis, what she and her husband deems mostly intriguing is that sports have enabled them to develop camaraderies with others besides their family. And, aside from their jobs — Mitchell works in management for Dell, while LaDeitra holds a management post for Hewlet-Packard — sports allows the Lees to spend more time together as a family.
“We play sports together, we swim together, we do triathlons together, and we race,” Lee said. “We run together, we play basketball for fun, and we go to the pool. It just helps us love being around each other. It’s not just mom and dad taking them to school or mom and dad helping them with homework. A family that plays and prays together, stays together.”
That too, after all, was a trend in which her parents instilled in her and her siblings years ago while growing up in inner city Memphis.