Executive chef Yaschica Higgenbotham making noise in Mid-South, heartland regions

Hig1DALLAS — In case you don’t know her, allow Yaschica Higgenbotham to introduce herself.

For starters, Higgenbotham — nicknamed “Coko” — is a 33-year-old native of Amite, Louisiana.

A 2001 graduate of Amite High, Higgenbotham is a few years removed from having enrolled at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and two years removed from having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary in Dallas.

RISING CHEF STAR --- A little more than a month removed from having been thrust in the executive chef plateau, Yaschica Higgenbotham’s astounding cooking repertoire has given way to her becoming a household name at the popular Orion Café and Grill in nearby Rockwall, Texas. As the restaurant’s executive chef, Higgenbotham --- widely known as “Chef Antwan” --- is afforded the opportunity to customarily put her immense culinary talents on display, a long-waited dream that, to her credit, further sums up why vacating the small town of Amite, Louisiana for a much larger city was a foregone conclusion all along. (Photo submitted by Y. Higgenbotham)

RISING CHEF STAR — A little more than a month removed from having been thrust in the executive chef plateau, Yaschica Higgenbotham’s astounding cooking repertoire has given way to her becoming a household name at the popular Orion Café and Grill in nearby Rockwall, Texas. As the restaurant’s executive chef, Higgenbotham — widely known as “Chef Antwan” — is afforded the opportunity to customarily put her immense culinary talents on display, a long-waited dream that, to her credit, further sums up why vacating the small town of Amite, Louisiana for a much larger city was a foregone conclusion all along. (Photo submitted by Y. Higgenbotham)

A first-generation college graduate, Higgenbotham didn’t just earn a college degree, she mastered school in flying colors, having registered a cumulative grade point average of 3.26.

Add to the fact that the vibrant, progressive Higgenbotham is an accomplished bass guitar player, an avid painter, and often finds pleasure in preparing delectable meals for friends, and it’s no wonder she has become a fixture in her brief time as a member of West Irving Church of God In Christ.

“I really began to truly believe that Dallas was a part of God’s plan when He started to put great people in my path,” Higgenbotham told longtime journalist Andre Johnson during a recent exclusive interview. “I like my church family. They get on my nerves just like my church family back home, but I wouldn’t trade them at all. They embraced me with loving arms and they believed in me.”

In assessing her brief time in the Lone Star State, Higgenbotham doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s in the right establishment, at the ideal time during what undoubtedly has become a rather dazzling transition in her young life.

In a nutshell, while many who watched her grow up in a rural Louisiana town sensed that relocating to a massive city wasn’t in her best interest, Higgenbotham admittedly knew full well she had arrived at a pivotal point in her life where she had to refrain from watching things happen, but rather she had to begin to make things happen.

Did she ever.

“I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey here in Dallas,” Higgenbotham said.

Given the commendable strides she has made in recent years, it’s safe to assume there’s no turning back now.

Higgenbotham undoubtedly loves Dallas and Dallas loves her back.

“Dallas is where I believed in me,” said Higgenbotham, displaying a smile that was virtually nonexistent upon her move here. “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey here in Dallas. Dallas is where I became a woman. Dallas is where my faith has grown in God. Dallas is where I began to believe in myself. Dallas is where my culinary career began. Dallas is where I began to love Yaschica Higgenbotham. I don’t know what my future holds here in Dallas. But whatever it is, I will always put God first.”

Hig4It is, by all accounts, because of her devout faith, coupled with her solid support system that Higgenbotham not only mastered culinary school, but she’s without question starting to flourish as a thriving professional chef in the process.

A little more than a month removed from having been thrust in the executive chef plateau, Higgenbotham’s astounding cooking repertoire has given way to her becoming a household name at the popular Orion Café and Grill in nearby Rockwall, Texas.

As the restaurant’s executive chef, Higgenbotham — widely known as “Chef Coko Antwan” — is afforded the opportunity to customarily put her immense culinary talents on display, a long-waited dream that, to her credit, further sums up why vacating the small town of Amite for a much larger city was a foregone conclusion all along.

So much for the constant fear she routinely harbored upon her move to Dallas.

“Wow…what a leap of faith,” said Higgenbotham, appearing rather in awe of her rapid success since coming to Texas. “When I moved to here, I knew no one. I prayed and ask God to show me where to go and He gave me Dallas.”

Surely, life for Higgenbotham had its share of hardships and obstacles. But for a woman who was taught as a child to cling to unwavering faith, Higgenbotham’s life today is such that she has gone to great lengths to clear every hurdle that has come her way.

Look out, Texas. There’s no stopping her now.

“It has been a journey of ups and downs,” Higgenbotham said. “Some days I thought I wasn’t going to make it here. But I was so determined to fight the good fight of faith. I knew that going back to Amite was not an option for me. I was determined to break every generational curse that had attached itself to my life and to my destiny. I was just crazy enough to believe that God didn’t send me here to leave me.”Hig2

Her rise to success, she said, has come full circle, in large part because of the continuous guidance of her mother, Vanessa Higgenbotham, her grandmother, Mary White, and her godmother, Annie Sudduth.

“But there is one person who have taught me a lot since I’ve been here in Dallas,” Higgenbotham, whose long-term goal is to erect her own restaurant and food truck before she turns 40, acknowledges. “Her name is Retta Mitchell. No…I don’t want to start naming names. But I have to say she’s been my (biggest) supporter here in Dallas. Retta has taught me how to find the bright side of everything I go through in life. I truly thank God for Retta J.”

Now that she’s steadily becoming acclimated to the Dallas and its surrounding areas, the possibility exist that Higgenbotham’s skills as a professional chef will ultimately give way to catering opportunities, a trend that, given her continuous success, she’d welcome wholeheartedly.

Hands down.

CHASING GREATNESS --- A 2001 graduate of Amite High, Higgenbotham is a few years removed from having enrolled at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and two years removed from having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary in Dallas.  A first-generation college graduate, Higgenbotham didn’t just earned a college degree, she mastered in school in flying colors, having registered a cumulative grade point average of I graduated with a 3.26.

CHASING GREATNESS — A 2001 graduate of Amite High, Higgenbotham is a few years removed from having enrolled at Delgado Community College in New Orleans and two years removed from having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary in Dallas.
A first-generation college graduate, Higgenbotham didn’t just earned a college degree, she mastered in school in flying colors, having registered a cumulative grade point average of I graduated with a 3.26.

“I love to experiment with different flavors and texture,” said Higgenbotham, “but most all, I love to plate my creation. I love to entertain and watch the face of the people when they take that first taste. It puts a smile on my face to see people enjoy great food. As a woman in this field, you have to know your stuff. If not, the male chefs will kill you. I had to fight so hard to get where I am now. God is good. I just know that this is the next step to my very own (venture). I love it.”

Not only that, Higgenbotham has come to love Dallas and Dallas has shown it loves her back.

There you have it, a thorough introduction.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are an author, musician, model, entrepreneur, athlete, or pastor/minister who is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Church carries much of the blame on same-sex marriage ruling, Johnson writes

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — Oh, cry me a river.

Quite frankly, these forthright remarks are directed specifically toward the modern-day church.

How dare we collectively murmur and complain?

How dare we collectively cry foul?

How dare we collectively utter unfair?

How dare we collectively label this, the day the Lord has made a sorrowful, low-spirited day in America when, in fact, a majority of the current events that are unfolding before our very eyes essentially is our fault, whether we want to admit it or not?

The United States Supreme Court on Friday rendered a nail-biting decision when it voted 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage nationwide, an unprecedented ruling President Obama described as “a victory for America.”

BLACK FRIDAY? The United States Supreme Court on Friday rendered a nail-biting decision when it voted 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage nationwide, an unprecedented ruling President Obama described as "a victory for America."  (Photo by Drew Angerer)

BLACK FRIDAY? The United States Supreme Court on Friday rendered a nail-biting decision when it voted 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage nationwide, an unprecedented ruling President Obama described as “a victory for America.” (Photo by Drew Angerer)

Such a historic development consequently sent shock waves throughout the modern-day church, news that to the dismay of the church, has prompted thousands upon thousands of believers to voice their anger and displeasure and repugnance with the nation’s highest court, thus express their desire to reunite and amend the plethora of differences and ill-feelings that have arisen amongst those within the walls of the modern-day church.

Surely, this new civil right, which came to fruition nearly 46 years to the day after a riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn that ushered in the modern gay rights movement, has set off a chain of reactions amongst the American people, regardless of their race, creed, or color.

Surely, this divided Supreme Court’s ruling on what undoubtedly has emerged as the most controversial issue in our nation to date subsequently has given way to mixed emotions, from college campuses to coffee shops to hair salons to grocery store lines, even the household of faith.

However, despite an unlikely ruling that made the U.S. the 21st country to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, the question that will undoubtedly linger for some time is: Who’s the blame for such a historic turn of events in which married same-sex couples will now be afforded the same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples?

Given how maladjusted and dysfunctional things have become in communities across our nation, I’d say the modern-day church carries a majority of the blame for what has shaped up to a global same-sex marital mess, one that won’t merely become immovable until believers rededicate themselves to demonstrating the kind of love Jesus Christ commands us to exemplify according to John 13:34.

Consider: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Jesus says.

Although Jesus, our High Priest Who was perfect in all His ways, encourages us to exhibit daily the kind of unyielding love He shows, how is it that the church essentially has tossed such a fruit of spirit by the wayside?

Furthermore, how has it that the modern-day church become just as disunified as the members of the church at Philippi to whom the Apostle Paul once issued letters?

Upon my move to Dallas from Memphis last year, I visited a nearby church in Cedar Hill, where the pastor shared with his congregation the slew of issues he senses are plaguing and crippling the church unlike never before.

To my recollection, gays and lesbians were never mentioned.

HERE TO STAY? In essence, the Supreme Court only made official Friday what was bound to happen all along, given the various signs and wonders we witness daily.  Needless to say, same-sex marriage is now constitutional nationwide, a historic unprecedented ruling we won’t merely see reversed, at least not in this lifetime. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

HERE TO STAY? In essence, the Supreme Court only made official Friday what was bound to happen all along, given the various signs and wonders we witness daily.
Needless to say, same-sex marriage is now constitutional nationwide, a historic unprecedented ruling we won’t merely see reversed, at least not in this lifetime. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

However, gossiping, back-biting, unforgiveness, and hatred, among other things, were cited by the preacher, all of which we are commanded to abstain from, as God commands us through Paul in a passage housed in Ephesians 4:31.

Consider: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice,” Paul wrote.

Which is to say that because the modern-day church has proven time and again to be a God-mandated organization that spends more time partaking in nonsense from which we are taught to steer clear, many now sense today’s church is starting to mirror that of the world when, in fact, it’s supposed to be the other way around.

So how dare we collectively murmur and complain?

How dare we collectively cry foul?

How dare we collectively utter unfair?

How dare we collectively label this, the day the Lord has made an inconsolable, comfortless day in our nation when, in fact, God’s manual specifically cautions us through Peter’s writing in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

For what it’s worth, the Supreme Court only made official Friday what was bound to happen all along, given the various signs and wonders we witness daily.

Needless to say, same-sex marriage is now constitutional nationwide, a historic, unprecedented ruling we won’t merely see reversed.

At least not in this lifetime.

So enough of the constant whining and finger-pointing and playing the blame game.

The nation’s highest court’s ruling was rendered in favor of gays and lesbians, in large part because of the continuous disunity in the modern-day church.

Which is to say that until the church cleans its figurative snotty nose, we can’t possibly expect the world to follow suit.

Oh, cry me a river.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Golden State’s Andre Iguodala dished out notable assist in shout out to NBA chaplains

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — For a sportswriter who has covered the NBA for the past five years, among the trends that never generate headlines is when players meet with the chaplains as part of their pregame rituals.

Because of the constant traveling and customary back-to-backs that make up an 82-game regular season, players rarely get to partake in worship inside of an actual edifice.

Besides, as NBA veteran Tayshaun Price told me during a 2013 interview regarding this subject, meeting with chaplains on game days provides players with the spiritual guidance and wisdom they need which, as a result, will enable them to keep life in its proper perspective.

So how commendable that in the wake of the Golden State Warriors’ Game 6 NBA Finals win Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers that gave them their first world championship in 40 years, Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala during a live postgame interview deemed it necessary to thank the chaplains across the league for their dedicated pastoral service they rendered generously to him and his teammates.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED --- Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and MVP Andre Iguodala celebrate after their team defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 to win the 2015 NBA Finals on June 16, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Warriors took the best-of-seven series four games to two over the Cavaliers to claim their first title since 1975. (Photo by Timothy Clary/Getty Images)

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED — Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and MVP Andre Iguodala celebrate after their team defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 to win the 2015 NBA Finals on June 16, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Warriors took the best-of-seven series four games to two over the Cavaliers to claim their first title since 1975. (Photo by Timothy Clary/Getty Images)

“I want to thank all the chaplains across the NBA for helping us out every single night,” Iguodala said after he became the first non-regular season starter in NBA history to be named the Finals Most Valuable Player.

HEART OF GOLD --- Iguodala during a live postgame interview deemed it necessary to thank the chaplains across the league for their dedicated pastoral service they rendered generously to him and his teammates.  ““I want to thank all the chaplains across the NBA for helping us out every single night,” Iguodala said after he became the first non-regular season starter in NBA history to be named the Finals Most Valuable Player. (Photo by David Liam/Getty Images)

HEART OF GOLD — Iguodala during a live postgame interview deemed it necessary to thank the chaplains across the league for their dedicated pastoral service they rendered generously to him and his teammates.
““I want to thank all the chaplains across the NBA for helping us out every single night,” Iguodala said after he became the first non-regular season starter in NBA history to be named the Finals Most Valuable Player.
(Photo by David Liam/Getty Images)

Consequently, Iguodala’s rare acknowledgement to the NBA’s men of the cloth brought tears to the eyes of longtime Memphis Grizzlies chaplain Donald Johnson.

Johnson, in telephone interview from Memphis on Wednesday, said he befriended Iguodala when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers from 2004-2012. Both, Johnson acknowledged, had often communicated via text messaging during the Warriors’ playoff run and, after their championship-clinching win, Johnson wasted little time reaching to his friend.

“I texted him (Tuesday) night and told him, ‘Congratulations on the championship’ and ‘job well done,’” Johnson, the pastor of Memphis’ historic Oak Grove Missionary Church, said. “I told some people he was going to be the Most Valuable Player not because he is a great player, but because he’s a man of God.”

PLAYERS' PASTOR --- Donald Johnson, the longtime Grizzlies chaplain, spoke with such eloquence in December 2012 on how essential it is that Iguodala and his teammates become dedicated daily to partaking in prayer and reading God's word because, according to Johnson, "they both go hand in hand."  As the brief session was about to culminate, Johnson prayed for Iguodala, asking God to grant him favor and to release supernatural blessings upon the All-Star who, after Tuesday night's game, had wrapped up his 11th NBA season.

PLAYERS’ PASTOR — Donald Johnson, the longtime Grizzlies chaplain, spoke with such eloquence in December 2012 on how essential it is that Iguodala and his teammates become dedicated daily to partaking in prayer and reading God’s word because, according to Johnson, “they both go hand in hand.”
As the brief session was about to culminate, Johnson prayed for Iguodala, asking God to grant him favor and to release supernatural blessings upon the All-Star who, after Tuesday night’s game, had wrapped up his 11th NBA season.

According to www.sportschaplaincy.org, sports chaplains have been fixtures to the sports community, having existed since the early mid-20th century. Also, the presence of sports chaplains have grown considerably over the past two decades, the website states, and the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have well established Christian sports chaplaincy ministries.

Since I began covering the NBA, I’ve witnessed array of players meet with Johnson roughly 90 minutes before tipoff in a designated room adjacent to FedExForum’s media hospitality area. Players from Mike Miller, Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard, Stephen Curry, to the entire Oklahoma City Thunder team.

Heck, I even recall last season when Houston Rockets point guard James Harden shoved me out of the way in the FedExForum tunnel after a pregame shoot around session so he could meet Johnson in time for to hear a mini-sermon.

Ironically, I actually sat in on Iguodala’s pregame session with Johnson the day after Christmas in 2012, during which Iguodala was in a contract season with 76ers.

I recall like yesterday how Johnson spoke with such eloquence on how essential it is that Iguodala and his teammates become dedicated daily to partaking in prayer and reading God’s word because, according to Johnson, “they both go hand in hand.”

As the brief session was about to culminate, Johnson prayed for Iguodala, asking God to grant him favor and to release supernatural blessings upon the All-Star who, after Tuesday night’s game, had wrapped up his 11th NBA season.

Fortunately for Iguodala, it’s safe to assume that God has modernized his career unlike never before, considering he was thrust atop the basketball world, hoisting the covenant Larry O’Brien hardware while simultaneously bearing an unlikely Finals MVP trophy.

Nevermind that Iguodala wasn’t deposited in the starting lineup until Game 5. But give him credit for being the only player capable of containing LeBron James, the Cavs’ self-proclaimed “best player in the world.”

After the Warriors’ historic season had come to a ceremonious end, after they emphatically had proven that their 67-win regular season wasn’t a fluke, Iguodala, whose primary role — at least for this season — was to fill in nicely whenever Klay Thompson took a breather, paid homage not just to his Creator, but to those who are responsible for dishing out the assists and tip-ins only a few seem to recognize.

Fortunately for Iguodala, it’s safe to assume that God has modernized his career unlike never before, considering he was thrust atop the basketball world, hoisting the covenant Larry O'Brien hardware while simultaneously bearing an unlikely Finals MVP trophy.  Nevermind that Iguodala wasn’t deposited in the starting lineup until Game 5. But give him credit for being the only player capable of containing LeBron James, the Cavs’ self-proclaimed “best player in the world.”  (Photo by Timothy Clay/Getty Images)

Fortunately for Iguodala, it’s safe to assume that God has modernized his career unlike never before, considering he was thrust atop the basketball world, hoisting the covenant Larry O’Brien hardware while simultaneously bearing an unlikely Finals MVP trophy.
Nevermind that Iguodala wasn’t deposited in the starting lineup until Game 5. But give him credit for being the only player capable of containing LeBron James, the Cavs’ self-proclaimed “best player in the world.”
(Photo by Timothy Clay/Getty Images)

Those much-needed spiritual assists and tip-ins that will empower them daily to keep life in its proper perspective.

“That really did touched my heart,” said Johnson, explaining his reaction to Iguodala’s postgame shout out to chaplains. “I was really humbled by that and I texted him and said, ‘Brother, thank you. I can’t lie to you. A tear began to dwell in my eye. It’s great to get the recognition.”

A newsworthy subject that surely had been long overdue for generating headlines.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Jae Moore fulfilling his lifelong dream through music as a rising gospel artist

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jae Moore doesn’t shy away from the fact that he would love to someday meet the Clark Sisters, Tamela Mann, Kirk Franklin, and Mary Mary, all of whom are renowned gospel music recording artists who have ties in some shape or form to the Church of God In Christ, which is headquartered in Memphis.

JaeMain“I sit and pray and I also try to put myself in the place of other people when I write so that my music can relate to people,” Moore told Reporter Andre Johnson during a recent interview. “I have not met any big name gospel artists yet.”

Given the immense strides Moore has made in recent years as rising gospel singer, his crossing paths with famous recording artists could very well come to fruition in the foreseeable future.

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Moore, to his credit, has hit the gospel music recording circuit at full speed, in large part because, as he tells it, he strategically placed his past fears and jitters where they belong: behind him.

Now his steadfast leap of faith coupled with his keen ability to see from beyond where he is has given way to favorable results for this young married father of three.

KING'S CHILD --- A Baltimore Woodlawn High graduate, Jae Moore is just weeks away from releasing his debut single entitled, “You”, a much-anticipated project that will be the featured hit on his an album that has yet to be named. (Photos submitted by J. Moore)

KING’S CHILD — A Baltimore Woodlawn High graduate, Jae Moore is just weeks away from releasing his debut single entitled, “You”, a much-anticipated project that will be the featured hit on his an album that has yet to be named. (Photos submitted by J. Moore)

And, in the coming weeks, those who have witnessed him grow up in the church and putt his musically-inclined skills on display will get to listen to and savor Moore’s angelic voice from the comfortable confines of their homes and vehicles.

A Baltimore Woodlawn High graduate, Moore is just weeks away from releasing his debut single entitled, “You”, a much-anticipated project that will be the featured hit on his an album that has yet to be named.

According to Moore, this emotional, awe-inspiring song will serve as a reminder to those from various walks of life of just how commendable and beneficial it is to assume the mind of Christ.

And not just adopt the mind of Christ, he’s quick to point out, but striving daily to embrace the abundant life Jesus came to give the world.

In a nutshell, Moore acknowledges, when the world develops a mindset to think and convey a lifestyle similar to that of Christ, lives of others will change for the better.

“My debut single comes from within,” said Moore, explain the meaning behind his initial recorded gospel song. “It speaks truth. It’s talking about being like God and walking like He has told us and showing us in His word.”

In other words, Moore said, when we strive daily to talk, walk, and pattern our lives after our Creator, mankind won’t merely think twice about trying to duplicate the lives of others.

“It’s so easy to want to be like this person and that person just because we look up to them,” Moore continued. “But this song just simply says, ‘I want to be like you, God, and follow after the things You have shown.’”

BORN TO SING --- For Moore, while singing had become virtually a massive part of his life growing up, thrusting his talents to the forefront --- or before sizable crowd --- had essentially become a tough act follow.  Conversely, for someone who adores gospel music wholeheartedly, let alone grew up in the church, Moore knows full well that God strategically had a divine calling on his life all along.

BORN TO SING — For Moore, while singing had become virtually a massive part of his life growing up, thrusting his talents to the forefront — or before sizable crowd — had essentially become a tough act follow.
Conversely, for someone who adores gospel music wholeheartedly, let alone grew up in the church, Moore knows full well that God strategically had a divine calling on his life all along.

For Moore, who currently resides in Oklahoma City with his wife, Krystal and their three children, while singing had become virtually a massive part of his life growing up, thrusting his talents to the forefront — or before sizable crowd — had essentially become a tough act follow.

Conversely, for someone who adores gospel music wholeheartedly, let alone grew up in the church, Moore knows full well that God strategically had a divine calling on his life all along.

That calling, it turned out, was centered largely on gospel music.

Nowadays, Moore can finally celebrate the fact that because of his profound affection for gospel music, he’s finally in his element — thanks in large part to him strategically placing his fears and jitters where they belong: behind him.

“I have always been scared to just promote my music and what God had given me,” Moore said. “I have had several people for years trying to encourage me to get my music to the world. I feel like if I don’t do it now then I never will. The passion and the burning are there and, at this time, I chose to trust God and go for it.”

Credit his mother, grandmother, and aunt for also inspiring him to grab a firm hold of his passion for music.

“I grew up watching my mother play the piano and organ at church,” Moore explained. “And when I went to visit my dad, I remember watching my grandmother and aunt play the piano during service. I love my mother because she instilled singing in me, and both of my sisters. She saw the gift in us. She would wake us up in the middle of the night so we can practice singing.  My first time singing in front of a crowd was at school when I had to sing the national anthem. I was nervous because I was kid and didn’t know what to expect.  I afraid of what people would say.”

Today, nonetheless, those who once watched in awe Moore ignite crowds as a child are now celebrating the fact that he has taken his musically-inclined skills to a whole new level.

DREAM FULFILLED --- Nowadays, Moore can finally celebrate the fact that because of his profound affection for gospel music, he’s finally in his element --- thanks in large part to him strategically placing his fears and jitters where they belong: behind him. “I have always been scared to just promote my music and what God had given me,” Moore said. “I have had several people for years trying to encourage me to get my music to the world. I feel like if I don't do it now then I never will. The passion and the burning are there and, at this time, I chose to trust God and go for it.”

DREAM FULFILLED — Nowadays, Moore can finally celebrate the fact that because of his profound affection for gospel music, he’s finally in his element — thanks in large part to him strategically placing his fears and jitters where they belong: behind him.
“I have always been scared to just promote my music and what God had given me,” Moore said. “I have had several people for years trying to encourage me to get my music to the world. I feel like if I don’t do it now then I never will. The passion and the burning are there and, at this time, I chose to trust God and go for it.”

“I love music so much because I feel like it’s a way to express what’s in the inside,” Moore said. “Music is very powerful; it sends a message rather than be good or bad. My love for music has grown into a passion.”

Thanks in large part to him strategically placing his fears and jitters where they belong: behind him.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are an author, musician, model, entrepreneur, athlete, or pastor/minister who is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

LeBron James has earned the right to say he’s ‘the best player in the world’

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — Two days after the NBA All-Star break last year, I walked inside of American Airlines Center, where the Miami Heat had just completed their morning shootaround session.

Then-Heat superstar LeBron James had retreated to the opposite end of the arena away from his teammates.

Consequently, I headed toward the area where James sat and, although he didn’t take questions from reporters, he and I partook in a rather brief exchange.

It had nothing to do with basketball.

WORLD'S FINEST --- Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, an 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

WORLD’S FINEST — Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, an 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Instead, I congratulated James on his recent marriage to the former Savannah Brinson, his longtime girlfriend of 13 years.

Suddenly, I jokingly asked James, “Do you have any marital advice you’d like to pass along to me?”

James, a seemingly ecstatic newlywed, then turned away from his cell phone and, without hesitation, said to me, “Choose your battles, man. Happy wife, happy life.”

It was, in fact, following that intriguing dialogue that I had drawn the conclusion that James isn’t merely the villain many sensed he had become in the aftermath of his infamous “The Decision” prime-time national television special when he unequivocally coined the phrase, “taking my talents to South Beach.”

But rather I had drawn the assessment that James is one who, love him or hate him, doesn’t shy away from the notion of always keeping it real.

In my estimation, he’s kept it real ever since.

Such was the case when after a memorable four-year run in Miami in which James guided the Heat to back-to-back world titles and four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, he revealed in a first-person essay to Sports Illustrated that he intended to rejoin the Cavaliers.

Such was the case when he met last summer behind closed doors with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to mend their well-publicized differences.

Such was the case following Cleveland’s 104-91 loss at the Golden State Warriors in Sunday’s Game 5 of their NBA Finals best-of-7 series.

Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead.

“I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” James, after his 40-point, triple-double outburst, said when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It’s that simple.”

While many media pundits sense that Golden State — just like in its previous series against Memphis — has made the necessary adjustments to take control of a series the Warriors are favored to win, James, meanwhile, was only stating the obvious following a loss that now have the Cavs on the brink of witnessing yet another franchise heartbreaker heading into Tuesday night’s Game 6 at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.

That is, he uttered with such fearlessness a dauntless declaration many around the sports world had been professing for some time.

Love him or hate him, James, to his credit, surely has earned the right to say he’s the world’s best player, given his masterful, awe-inspiring display on basketball’s grandest stage.

SWEET HOME OHIO --- Such renewed hope and enthusiasm wouldn’t have come to fruition in Cleveland if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and returned to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years. All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

SWEET HOME OHIO — Such renewed hope and enthusiasm wouldn’t have come to fruition in Cleveland if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and returned to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years. All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

For starters, the 11-year veteran continues to register consistently remarkable numbers in a series (36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the NBA Finals while playing 45-plus minutes per contest) many didn’t expect to be this competitive, considering the shorthanded Cavs have lost their second and third-best players (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) to season-ending injuries.

Not only that, the 30-year-old James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who finished third in this year’s league MVP race, has virtually done it all on both ends of the floor, most notably as the Cavs’ facilitator in a series showdown against Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP.

How else to explain why Cavs undrafted shooting guard Matthew Dellavedova has filled in superbly for the injured Irving, thus manufactured his pro basketball coming out party?

How else to explain why Clevelanders who, on several occasions, had become accustomed to witnessing their professional sports teams wound up on the wrong side of arguably the most memorable moments in the history of sports — the Browns’ disheartening loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game known as The Drive and Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo two years later, for instance — were ultimately given some renewed hope and enthusiasm when the Cavs surprisingly stole homecourt advantage with a decisive win in Game 2 against the heavily-favored Warriors?

POSITIVE APPROACH --- Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead. “"I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world," said James, when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It's that simple." (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

POSITIVE APPROACH — Even after the Cavs were dealt their second consecutive setback to fall behind in the series three games to two, James, assuming his customary businesslike approach, was forthright and to the point in assessing how his team will devise ways to atone for squandering a 2-1 series lead. “”I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world,” said James, when asked about his team’s chances of rallying to win the series.” It’s that simple.” (Photo by Tony Dejak/AP)

Make no mistake, such renewed energy wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for the much-anticipated return of James who, to his credit, was such an integral part of the Heat organization that after he bolted South Beach and went back to his Ohio stomping ground, Miami failed to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in seven years.

All of which is why even with a series loss to the Warriors, James ought to be named Finals MVP.

All of which is why James, because of his undeniable excellence and astounding body of work in recent years, undoubtedly has earned the right to say he’s the best player in the world.

Love him or hate him.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Former Memphis Ridgeway standout Mike Ritter aiming for degree, shot at pro ranks

HOLDING HIS OWN --- In helping Kentucky Christian University to a 5-6 mark this past season after the Knights had begun the campaign having won three of their first four outings, former Memphis Ridgeway standout Michael Ritter started each game at cornerback and held his own in what was a year that gave way to an array of off-the-field accolades.  So impressive was the 5-foot-8, 180 Ritter that his display for the Knights did not go unnoticed by Commonwealth League officials, who recognized Ritter for his dazzling efforts. (Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

HOLDING HIS OWN — In helping Kentucky Christian University to a 5-6 mark this past season after the Knights had begun the campaign having won three of their first four outings, former Memphis Ridgeway standout Michael Ritter started each game at cornerback and held his own in what was a year that gave way to an array of off-the-field accolades.
So impressive was the 5-foot-8, 180 Ritter that his display for the Knights did not go unnoticed by Commonwealth League officials, who recognized Ritter for his dazzling efforts. (Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

Just recently, Michael Ritter went on and on about how football has taught him an assortment of life lessons.

Amongst the most intriguing lessons about which Ritter has learned has learned is that education carries much greater weight than the sport he’s come to love.

How else to explain why Ritter, a former Memphis Ridgeway High and Kentucky Christian University football standout doesn’t shy about from the notion that while he’s lobbying for a career in the professional football ranks, he seems just as destined to fulfill his academic requirements now that his collegiate stint has concluded?

“My ambition right now is to get my degree,” Ritter told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I want that just as badly as I want football (a career). Football won’t last forever either way, but my education will. My ambition has always been and still is to better my situation. God puts people into movement, and I’ve always been moving towards better things for myself and my family.”

Credit college life coupled with Ritter’s valiant contributions during what was a stellar four-year tenure at Kentucky Christian as to why this 22-year-old has steadfastly adopted some newfound enthusiasm on his young life.

In helping KCU to a 5-6 mark this past season after the Knights had begun the campaign having won three of their first four outings, Ritter started each game at cornerback and held his own in what was a year that gave way to an array of off-the-field accolades.

So impressive was the 5-foot-8, 180 Ritter that his display for the Knights did not go unnoticed by Commonwealth League officials, who recognized Ritter for his dazzling efforts.

Besides being named All-Commonwealth for 2014 and being named a two-time Pre-Season All-American as well as garnering First-Team All-Conference honors, Ritter was amongst 10 KCU players to represent the school in the recent All Mid-South East Division game, in large part because he recorded two interceptions and 24 solo, 10 of which were assisted tackles along with 3.5 tackles for yardage loss.

LEAVING HIS MARK --- Besides being named All-Commonwealth for 2014 and being named a two-time Pre-Season All-American as well as garnering First-Team All-Conference honors, Ritter was amongst 10 KCU players to represent the school in the recent All Mid-South East Division game, in large part because he recorded two interceptions and 24 solo, 10 of which were assisted tackles along with 3.5 tackles for yardage loss.

LEAVING HIS MARK — Besides being named All-Commonwealth for 2014 and being named a two-time Pre-Season All-American as well as garnering First-Team All-Conference honors, Ritter was amongst 10 KCU players to represent the school in the recent All Mid-South East Division game, in large part because he recorded two interceptions and 24 solo, 10 of which were assisted tackles along with 3.5 tackles for yardage loss.

Although Ritter contributed mightily for the Knights as a senior, he contends that wasn’t his best year.

“My most productive season was my sophomore year,” Ritter said. “That’s when I really came into my own and stepped up to the leadership role. My senior year was a lot of me just being a leader and kind of a coach on the field. I knew my abilities and the team and coaches trusted me to always be accountable and vocal.”

Said Greg Blue, KCU’s defensive coordinator: “Mike Ritter is the biggest reason why we were successful on the defensive side of the ball. His lockdown ability at the corner gave us as a defense to the ability to play an aggressive style of defense. Mike is the most coachable player I have ever coached. His ability to lead was exceptional. Players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball respected Mike on and off the field. Mike is the ideal players coaches would love to have on their team.”

CHASING GREATNESS --- Now that his collegiate career has all but ended, Ritter (left) boasts lofty aspirations of putting his immense skills and mechanics on display for a professional franchise.  In fact, he’d be to tell you the sky’s the limit, considering he has already proven to one who overcomes the biggest of obstacles for whom many dubbed an undersized cornerback.  “My senior year in high school wasn't good,” Ritter explained. “I was going to camps and doing well. I got invited to a Vanderbilt camp and made it to the underclassmen Top 100. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury that sidelined me for most the season. So you know how that goes. Luckily, KCU had seen my potential and still gave me a chance.”

CHASING GREATNESS — Now that his collegiate career has all but ended, Ritter (left) boasts lofty aspirations of putting his immense skills and mechanics on display for a professional franchise.
In fact, he’d be to tell you the sky’s the limit, considering he has already proven to one who overcomes the biggest of obstacles for whom many dubbed an undersized cornerback.
“My senior year in high school wasn’t good,” Ritter explained. “I was going to camps and doing well. I got invited to a Vanderbilt camp and made it to the underclassmen Top 100. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury that sidelined me for most the season. So you know how that goes. Luckily, KCU had seen my potential and still gave me a chance.”

Now that his collegiate career has all but ended, Ritter boasts lofty aspirations of putting his immense skills and mechanics on display for a professional franchise.

In fact, he’d be to tell you the sky’s the limit, considering he has already proven to one who overcomes the biggest of obstacles for whom many dubbed an undersized cornerback.

“My senior year in high school wasn’t good,” Ritter explained. “I was going to camps and doing well. I got invited to a Vanderbilt camp and made it to the underclassmen Top 100. Unfortunately, I sustained an injury that sidelined me for most the season. So you know how that goes. Luckily, KCU had seen my potential and still gave me a chance.”

Which, fortunately for him, gave way to some newfound enthusiasm on his young life.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Howard University’s Angel Dye launches second book before the age of 21

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — During a recent visit home for Spring break, Howard University student Angel Dye was asked to share a brief, inspirational message before a standing-room-only crowd of worshipers at West Irving Church of God In Christ during its monthly Youth Day service.

She wasted little time igniting the crowd.

“If you don’t see it before you see it, you won’t see it,” Dye, during a mini-sermon geared toward faith, said as a throng of worshipers emerged to their feet and applauded in wonderment.

Angel2Such a faith-based analogy, to her credit, is one about which Dye has steadfastly applied to her daily journey, most notably as a savvy writer.

RISING ANGEL --- Two years removed from having made her book publishing debut with Rhyme And Reason, Milwaukee native Angel Dye last week launched her second book, "Love Letters To Our Daughters," during an official release party in Euless, Texas.

RISING ANGEL — Two years removed from having made her book publishing debut with Rhyme And Reason, Milwaukee native Angel Dye last week launched her second book, “Love Letters To Our Daughters,” during an official release party in Euless, Texas.

Just days away from celebrating her 21st birthday, Dye is making a solid case that she could be an author to reckon with in the foreseeable future.

Two years removed from having made her book publishing debut with “Rhyme And Reason,” Dye last week launched her second book, “Love Letters To Our Daughters,” during an official release party in Euless, Texas.

A self-published project in which the Milwaukee native compiled and edited more than 100 submissions, “Love Letters To Our Daughters” is an in-depth collection of original writings and visual art assembled by women of diverse backgrounds and ages, a book that was produced largely to encourage and inspire women from various walks of life.

Besides last week’s official release ceremony that lured approximately 50 attendees and resulted in each of the books on hand being sold, “Love Letters To Our Daughters” has drawn a slew of early rave reviews, in large part because of a fundraising web page Dye erected, which greatly helped promote her latest book.

Dye’s book also will be available at COGIC’s International Auxiliaries in Ministry Convention (or AIM) on July 2nd. In addition, she is scheduled to host a second book signing at Howard University’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore as well as a release party in the coming months. “Love Letters To Our Daughters” also can be found on Amazon, CreateSpace, and Kindle (eBook).

“So far the project is doing so well, and my hope and prayer is that it continues to skyrocket and reach women across the globe,” Dye said. “Every woman needs to know how valuable and important she is in this world.”

Just like her “If you don’t see it before you see it, you won’t see it” emphatic one-liner that recently caught the West Irving congregation by storm, Dye visualized her second book in the wee hours of the morning from her dormitory room.

Entering her senior year this fall at Howard, Dye hopes “Love Letters To Our Daughters" will provide her with the global exposure necessary to flourish in what undoubtedly is a competitive book-publishing industry.

ON A MISSION — Entering her senior year this fall at Howard, Dye hopes “Love Letters To Our Daughters” will provide her with the global exposure necessary to flourish in what undoubtedly is a competitive book-publishing industry.

“I thought about what I am passionate about…writing and mentoring, and asked God to show me how to bring those two things together to help other people,” Dye explained. “At around 2 a.m., one morning while I was in (Washington) D. C. last May, God woke me out of my sleep and gave me a very vivid vision for my newest book. He showed me the name and color scheme and the reason it was so necessary.”

It was at that very moment that “Love Letters To Our Daughters” was birthed, an awe-inspiring project Dye hopes will provide her with the global exposure necessary to flourish in what undoubtedly is a competitive book-publishing industry.

“There are not enough positive or uplifting representations of women to be found on bookshelves, on TV, in entertainment, or anywhere really,” said Dye, explaining her purpose for her latest book. “I was tasked with the responsibility of changing that.”

Given the early success she has enjoyed since her much-anticipated release of “Love Letters To Our Daughters,” it’s safe to assume that Dye — a senior English major and Theater Arts minor — has wasted little time igniting a swarm of supporters.

Once again.

 

FOLLOW THE ANGEL: For all inquiries and upcoming events featuring Angel Dye, log on to: Edenworkspublishing.com or send email to: info@edenworkspublishing.com. Also, “Rhyme or Reason” can be found at twopensandlint.com/angel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you are an author, musician, model, entrepreneur, athlete, or pastor/minister who is seeking exposure and would like to share your story with an in-depth news feature, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

State of Texas employee Christy Kyles to shed ‘tears of joy’ during son’s graduation

Prom2DUNCANVILLE, Texas — When Christy Kyles walks inside of the internationally acclaim Potter’s House Church Saturday afternoon for her son’s high school graduation, it will then all dawn on her.

“Through the tears of joy being shed, will I know that he never gave up,” Kyles said during a recent interview in MemphiSport’s inaugural Salute To Graduates 2015.

Kyles, the mother of five, was referring to Daniel Lee Hall, her third of five children, who will be awarded his diploma from MacArthur High during the Irving-based school’s commencement exercises.

The graduation ceremony is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.

HOOP DREAMS --- An honor student who boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, Daniel Hall was a four-year varsity player for MacArthur’s basketball team in which he played an integral role for a Cardinals team that reeled off 11 consecutive wins before falling to Plano West in the UIL state championship game in San Antonio.  Having played mostly combo guard, Daniel started sparingly for a MacArthur team that ended the season with 23-8 record, highlighted by a Region 2-6A District 9 regular season crown.

HOOP DREAMS — An honor student who boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, Daniel Hall was a four-year varsity player for MacArthur’s basketball team in which he played an integral role for a Cardinals team that reeled off 11 consecutive wins before falling to Plano West in the UIL state championship game in San Antonio.
Having played mostly combo guard, Daniel started sparingly for a MacArthur team that ended the season with 23-8 record, highlighted by a Region 2-6A District 9 regular season crown. (Photos submitted by C. Kyles)

According to Kyles, a Lawton, Oklahoma native and longtime employee for the State of Texas, among the things about which she deems mostly intriguing about Daniel’s forthcoming milestone is that for someone was had been heavily involved in an assortment of activities at MacArthur, he steadfastly remained focused on academics.

An honor student who boasts a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, Daniel was a varsity player for MacArthur’s basketball team in which he played an integral role for a Cardinals team that reeled off 11 consecutive wins before falling to Plano West in the UIL state championship game in San Antonio.

Having played mostly combo guard, Daniel started sparingly for a MacArthur team that ended the season with 23-8 record, highlighted by a Region 2-6A District 9 regular season crown.

While Daniel hasn’t ruled out playing basketball at the collegiate level, even if he doesn’t suit up in a college hoops uniform this fall, Kyles is quick to acknowledge that the sky’s the limit for a resourceful kid who had always stayed committed to making academic excellence the focal point with regards to maximizing his potential.

“He has continued to stay focused on his academics with everything our family has endured over the past year,” Kyles explained. “I have always told Daniel, ‘You can achieve anything you put your mind to.’”

STAYING FOCUSED --- According to Kyles, a Lawton, Oklahoma native and longtime employee for the State of Texas, among the things about which she deems mostly intriguing about her Daniel’s forthcoming milestone is that for someone was had been heavily involved in an assortment of activities at MacArthur, he steadfastly remained focused on academics.

STAYING FOCUSED — According to Kyles, a Lawton, Oklahoma native and longtime employee for the State of Texas, among the things about which she deems mostly intriguing about her Daniel’s forthcoming milestone is that for someone was had been heavily involved in an assortment of activities at MacArthur, he steadfastly remained focused on academics.

Aside from basketball, Daniel was a fixture in ROTC as well as spent two years taking Culinary Arts courses.

As for his plans beyond high school, Kyles said Daniel has narrowed his college choices to the United States Air Force Academy, Eastern New Mexico University, the University of Colorado at Denver, and Hofstra University, although her son hinted recently that enrolling at Air Force appears to be the likely choice.

Still, whether Daniel extends his basketball career at the collegiate ranks remains a mystery, one thing’s for certain, his mother says: she has no doubt that her son will do whatever is necessary to be resourceful once the next chapter of his life begins in the coming months.

BRIGHT FUTURE --- As for his plans beyond high school, Kyles said Daniel has narrowed his college choice to the United States Air Force Academy, Eastern New Mexico University, University of Colorado at Denver, and Hofstra University, although her son hinted recently that enrolling at Air Force appears to be the likely choice.

BRIGHT FUTURE — As for his plans beyond high school, Kyles said Daniel has narrowed his college choice to the United States Air Force Academy, Eastern New Mexico University, University of Colorado at Denver, and Hofstra University, although her son hinted recently that enrolling at Air Force appears to be the likely choice.

“Failure is not an option when God is in the situation,” said Kyles who, along with her family, attends West Irving Church of God In Christ. With God, there is no limit to where He will take you.”

Which, as a result, will make the countless tears worth shedding when her son’s name is finally called to be awarded his diploma come Saturday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like to salute a Class of 2015 graduate with a unique celebratory tribute that will be designed like this one, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Oklahoma AAU hoops standout Khalayah Willis boasts unyielding love for the game

Hoops1SPRINGER, Oklahoma — No one can question Khalayah Willis’ passion for basketball.

Absolutely no one.

Take, for instance, just recently when Willis sent her mother, Kaniesha Roberts, text messages pleading with her to allow her to go to a nearby YMCA so she could work on her fundamentals despite being hampered by an ankle sprain that required medical treatment.

Said the injured Willis via text: “Mama, can I go to the YMCA tomorrow to play basketball? Tiona wants me to come because she’s going to be the only one there.”

Approximately one minute later, Willis continued to convince her mother that she’s armed with an immense competitive drive for the game she’s come to embrace.

Her ensuring text message read: “Why am I going to have a brace on? Please…I’ll put ice on it to make it feel good. I’m trying to and get better.”

After sharing her daughter’s text messages on her Facebook timeline, a number of Roberts’ fellow social media friends were astounded, thus intrigued by Willis’ unyielding love for basketball.

And to think, she’s only 11 year old.

“The time I was really proud of my daughter was the time she sprung her ankle in the first game of a (recent) tournament and she played on that ankle the last two games with pride and heart,”

STAR WATCH --- It is because of Khalayah Willis' assertiveness and willingness to contribute mightily for the Lady Dream Team 11-and-under AAU team that this squad has become a force on the amateur hoops circuit of late.  Willis is the catalyst of a Lady Dream Team squad that recently captured a fifth-and-sixth-grade group championship in San Antonio. (Photos submitted by K. Roberts)

STAR WATCH — It is because of Khalayah Willis’ assertiveness and willingness to contribute mightily for the Lady Dream Team 11-and-under AAU team that this squad has become a force on the amateur hoops circuit of late.
Willis is the catalyst of a Lady Dream Team squad that recently captured a fifth-and-sixth-grade group championship in San Antonio. (Photos submitted by K. Roberts)

Roberts said. “She finished what she started. The following tournament, the doctor told her to stay off it for two weeks.”

Text1Text2However, as Roberts recalls, her daughter had other ideas.

“She refused to do that,” Roberts explained. “She played that whole tournament with a brace on. She was told to rest. She said, ‘I can ice it and wear my brace.’ She said, ‘I can’t get better in a brace.’”

It is, in fact, because of Willis’ assertiveness and willingness to contribute mightily for the Lady Dream Team 11-and-under AAU team that this squad has become a force on the amateur hoops circuit of late.

Willis is the catalyst of a Lady Dream Team squad that recently captured a fifth-and-sixth-grade group championship in San Antonio.

The team’s leading scorer, the 5-foot-5 Willis plays mostly point guard and, given her team’s success in recent weeks, it’s safe to assume that as she goes, so goes the Lady Dream Team.

“I was so excited when they won the championship in San Antonio,” Roberts said. “It was a long drive (from Springer). “The girls worked so hard for a week long and came out on top. Khalayah played that game with heart and she had me so proud.”

PROVEN LEADER --- The team’s leading scorer, the 5-foot-5 Willis plays mostly point guard and, given her team’s success in recent weeks, it’s safe to assume that as she goes, so goes the Lady Dream Team.  “I was so excited when they won the championship in San Antonio,” Roberts said. “It was a long drive (from Springer). “The girls worked so hard for a week long and came out on top. Khalayah played that game with heart and she had me so proud.”

PROVEN LEADER — The team’s leading scorer, the 5-foot-5 Willis plays mostly point guard and, given her team’s success in recent weeks, it’s safe to assume that as she goes, so goes the Lady Dream Team.
“I was so excited when they won the championship in San Antonio,” Roberts said. “It was a long drive (from Springer). “The girls worked so hard for a week long and came out on top. Khalayah played that game with heart and she had me so proud.”

Willis’ admiration for basketball was first discovered by her mother at a local YMCA when she was only five years. From that point on, Roberts began to devises way to get her child — who boasts mostly a size advantage against opposing point guards — involved in the sport on a competitive level.

To her daughter’s credit, she’s been playing for three years — and counting.

SOLID SUPPORTING CAST --- Among the reasons for her continuous progress is that Willis’ has developed such immense passion, let alone a never-say-die countenance that many say is virtually unteacheable.  “My overall reaction when I knew this was going to be her sport when I see how upset she gets when she loses a game,” Roberts explained. “At that moment, I knew right then she was very competitive.”

SOLID SUPPORTING CAST — Among the reasons for her continuous progress is that Willis’ has developed such immense passion, let alone a never-say-die countenance that many say is virtually unteacheable.
“My overall reaction when I knew this was going to be her sport when I see how upset she gets when she loses a game,” Roberts explained. “At that moment, I knew right then she was very competitive.”

“My reaction after finding out she will be playing AAU basketball was exciting because at that time she, was young and there wasn’t an AAU (team) for her age. So I got with the coach that was coaching a grade up and told him I have a daughter that has a heart for the game. I asked him if she can play on your team and he said bring her to practice and we will go from there. She has been playing for 3 years now and every year she gets better and better.”

Among the reasons for her continuous progress is that Willis has developed such immense passion, let alone a never-say-die countenance that many say is virtually unteacheable.

“My overall reaction when I knew this was going to be her sport when I see how upset she gets when she loses a game,” Roberts explained. “At that moment, I knew right then she was very competitive.”

Which, by all accounts, is why the sky’s the limit for Willis — this young, vibrant, speedy floor general whose admiration for the game can’t merely be brought into question.

By absolutely no one.

“I love basketball because it’s fun and easy,” Willis said. “My mom and dad have been supportive. My mom tells me what’s right and she is real serious. The best advice my mom and coach tell me is not to cry and have an attitude on the basketball court. I’m going to continue to make my parents proud and hopefully one day make it to the WNBA.”

If nothing else, she certainly appears to be on the right track.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Young gymnast Leeiah Davis having international impact on amateur circuit

LeeiahDADJust recently, amateur Leeiah Destanee Davis was asked what are amongst her essential plans during the summer.

“This summer I want to go back to my hometown in Florida and get in the gym with one of my favorite gymnast, Derrian Goburne, and hope to run into Gabby Douglas,” Davis, during a recent interview, said while chuckling.

For Davis, a 10-year-old rising gymnast phenom who has enjoyed an array of success on the amateur circuit in recent years, it would be rather simple to grasp a thorough concept as to why she is destined to meet Douglas, who emphatically caught the sports world by storm when she became the first African-American woman to capture gold medals in both the all-around and team competitions in the 2012 Summer Games.

For starters, just like the young Douglas, Davis has proven to be just as big a gym rat, a trend that has ultimately has given way to a brutally immense work ethic, let alone a passion for the sport her parents initially discovered she embraced some five years ago.

CHECK OUT LEEIAH: gofundme.com/SupportLeeiahd

As Martha Tatham-Davis recalls, her then-baby daughter was seen jumping and tumbling off of virtually everything in their home that would suggests that this vibrant, happy-go-lucky kid was showing flashes that a future in gymnastics was essentially a foregone conclusion.

My reaction was, ‘Oh my!’ Tatham-Davis explained. “God has given her an awesome gift and I want to encourage her to explore it.”

The rest, as they say, was history.

Five years removed from being caught flipping off of house furniture as her parents looked on in wonderment, Leeiah, to her credit, has enjoyed a wealth of success as an amateur gymnast, a trend that has afforded her the golden opportunity to put her skills on display even outside of the United States.

TRACK DOWN LEEIAH: (Google #leeiahd)

LeeiahMainAmong the reasons is that Leeiah, a Winter Haven, Florida native whose family currents resides in Fort Meade, Maryland, made her competitive gymnastics debut in Europe — Vicenza, Italy to be exact.

That’s because Leeiah was — and still is — a military child, considering her father, Demetrius Davis, is a longtime soldier in the United States Army.

In fact, as Leeiah — who’s also competed briefly while living in Killeen, Texas — tells it, her continuous rise as a young gymnast would not have come full circle if not for the viable presence of her father who, according to her mother, endures what she describes as “separation anxiety,” particularly when her father is on assignment for the country.

DADDY'S GIRL --- Among the reasons is that Leeiah Davis, a Winter Haven, Florida native whose family currents resides in Fort Meade, Maryland, made her competitive gymnastics debut in Europe --- Vicenza, Italy to be exact.  That’s because Leeiah was --- and still is --- a military child, considering her father, Demetrius Davis, is a longtime soldier in the United States Army.  In fact, as Leeiah --- who’s also competed briefly while living in Killeen, Texas --- tells it, her continuous rise as a young gymnast would not have come full circle if not for the viable presence of her father who, according to her mother, endures what she describes as “separation anxiety,” particularly when her father is on assignment for the country.

DADDY’S GIRL — Among the reasons is that Leeiah Davis, a Winter Haven, Florida native whose family currents resides in Fort Meade, Maryland, made her competitive gymnastics debut in Europe — Vicenza, Italy to be exact.
That’s because Leeiah was — and still is — a military child, considering her father, Demetrius Davis, is a longtime soldier in the United States Army.
In fact, as Leeiah — who’s also competed briefly while living in Killeen, Texas — tells it, her continuous rise as a young gymnast would not have come full circle if not for the viable presence of her father who, according to her mother, endures what she describes as “separation anxiety,” particularly when her father is on assignment for the country.

“Leeiah is extremely close to her dad, and when certain things like separation anxiety sets in, gymnastics are her outlet,” Tatham-Davis said. “Nothing relaxes her like being in the gym, so it’s not just a past time for her, or something to do after school. It’s her therapy, it’s her job, and it’s her passion.

A student at Pershing Hill Elementary in Fort Meade, the 4-foot-10 Leeiah practices her craft as a gymnast for as close to 18 hours a week, according to her mother.

While often observing her daughter in action in the gym — or in her “sanctuary” of sorts, Tatham-Davis acknowledges — she even recalls a memorable encounter about which still brings her to smiles to this very day.

“The most memorable encounter would be watching her learn gymnast through the art of the sport itself due to the language barrier of beginning her career in a foreign country,” Tatham-Davis explained. “There is no limit, because God has blessed her infinitely. You don’t read about upcoming gymnasts that are a part of a military family every day. And while one might not think that’s a big component of her career, it truly is.”

Which, by all accounts, is among the grandest reasons that Leeiah — who is also an avid track and field standout — appears destined to leave it all out on the floor whenever she makes her much-anticipated presence in the gymnasium.

Whether in the states or anywhere else around the globe.

“I want to go to (the University of) Florida Gators for gymnastics or be a professional gymnast,” said Leeiah, explaining her future goals and ambitions. “It’s my dream to help take care of my parents and my brothers and sister. My dad is amazing. He is a soldier and he works hard for me so I want to make him happy with making good grades and follow my dreams.”

Something she hopes Olympic gold medalist phenom Gabby Douglas will hear about.

At some point in time.

Maybe, perhaps, this summer in Florida.

MAKING STRIDES --- Davis is also an avid track and field standout.

MAKING STRIDES — Davis is also an avid track and field standout.

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AndreAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.