Mid-South-area gymnast Caela Flake making her presence felt across the nation

Flake2As far as Caela Flake is concerned, no one has to give her a pep talk on what it means to persevere through life’s toughest of obstacles.

By and large, this 17-year-old Arlington High gymnast had learned the significance of weathering what she described as seemingly insurmountable challenges a little more than two years ago.

For instance, Caela’s father, Derek Flake, was the breadwinner of their family and, along with his wife, Sherita, had done a masterful job of seeing that their children lived comfortably in their Northeast Shelby County home and made wise decisions.

Unfortunately for Caela, her father’s job was eliminated in December 2012, news that ultimately gave way to assortment of challenges for the rising young gymnast.

For starters, Caela, unlike in previous years, wasn’t able to train consistently for nearly a two-year stretch because of the financial adversities that had plagued her family during the time. But just as she had done in the various competitions in gymnasiums throughout the country, she deemed it necessary to, as she tells it, “make lemonade out of lemons.”

“I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.”

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES --- According to Sherita Flake, her daughter, Caela Flake, first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.  “We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.” To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor. (Photos submitted by S. Flake)

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES — According to Sherita Flake, her daughter, Caela Flake, first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.
“We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.”
To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor. (Photos submitted by S. Flake)

That’s not all this vibrant, think-outside-the-box athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics.

“I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

ALL NOT LOST --- “I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.  That’s not all this vibrant, innovative athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics. “I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

ALL NOT LOST — “I trained at home on my balance beam that my great grandmother bought me for my ninth birthday and I did some bar drills on the floor bar that my parents bought me,” Caela told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I conditioned by running outside, stretching at home, and doing other exercises at home.
That’s not all this vibrant, innovative athlete had done to upgrade her mechanics.
“I even made a vault table out of the couch,” Caela explained. “I was determined not to lose skills. When my parents could finally afford to send me back to gymnastics, I had not lost that many skills. Therefore, the colleges would be gaining an athlete who knows how to train independently in under ideal circumstances.”

Now a junior campaign at Arlington, Caela doesn’t shy away from the notion that because she has trained just as intensely as many of her peers on the gymnastics circuit, she is destined to fulfill her dream of earning an athletic scholarship in the sport.

“I would like (college recruiters) to know that I am one of the most determined and dedicated kids they’ll ever meet,” Caela said. “I believe that whichever school I go to, I’ll make a good name for the school athletically and academically.”

To get a thorough understanding of why Caela is primed to seize a full-ride scholarship, look no further than how she’s going about emerging as one of the Mid-South finest young gymnast, who was christened the 2012 state champion in Tennessee after placing first in bars competition for the entire season?

According to Sherita Flake, her daughter first gained an admiration for gymnastics when she was six years old at the recommendation of her dance teacher, who said Caela had routinely become bored in dance class and, instead, began tumbling around on the canvas.
“We sought the best training she could get,” Sherita said. “We tried to make sure she was exposed to the best coaching possible.”

To the Flake’s credit, “the best” is what they ultimately acquired, considering they sent their daughter to Maryland to train with former Olympian Dominique Dawes, Caela’s grandest mentor.

The now-retired Dawes is widely remembered for being the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics and the first black person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She is also one of only three female American gymnasts, along with Muriel Grossfeld and Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, to compete in three Olympics and was part of three Olympic medal-winning teams: Barcelona 1992 (bronze), Atlanta 1996 (gold), and Sydney 2000 (bronze).

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.  In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.
In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

Besides training with Dawes, Caela has met renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and has competed in various venues across the country, most notably Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Texas, and California.

In addition, this rising gymnast has participated in gymnastics camps at the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.

“We were on vacation in California and she met a coach and got him to open the gym for her so she could work out,” said Sherita, assessing her daughter’s intense work ethic on the circuit.

BRIGHT FUTURE --- “I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

BRIGHT FUTURE — “I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

Not bad for a thriving athlete, who was born three weeks premature and was diagnosed with what doctors described as severe strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. Because of her unfavorable vision, she was delayed talking, walking, siting up alone, and crawling, among other things, her mother recalled.

“When she was six months old, we found out that her vision was bad and she began wearing glasses,” Sherita said. She had to go to physical therapy and occupational therapy. At that point, her doctors told us that she would be quirky walking and doing things that required gross motor skills. They also told us that she would not be able to run, tumble, or skip. We prayed about it and she has fully overcome that battle. Gymnastics is proof. Her gymnastics victories are proof.”

All of which is why Caela has learn the significance of what it means to persevere.

“I believe that these were signs from God that gymnastics is the sport for me because I am one in a million,” Caela said. I believe that whichever (college) I go to, God will help me blossom and carry me through and allow me to be a blessing wherever I go.”

That’s because she learned a valuable life lesson long ago — the lesson on how to make lemonade out of lemons.

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

Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki reflects on playing days with close friend Steve Nash

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT

DALLAS — When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after the 2003-04 season that he wanted to build his franchise around a younger Dirk Nowitzki then passed up signing Steve Nash to a long-term deal, among those who expressed their displeasure with the move was Nowitzki.

BEST OF FRIENDS --- Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

BEST OF FRIENDS — Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

Nowitzki and Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together here.

However, after Cuban declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him.

“I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

After an NBA career that spanned 17-plus seasons and was highlighted by eight All-Star appearances and two league MVP awards, Nash officially announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.

HE SAID IT --- Said Nowitzki in Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

HE SAID IT — Said Nowitzki on Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.” (Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images)

Nash, 41, had been under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for the past two-plus seasons before injuries ultimately reduced his effectiveness and forced him to call it a career. Prior to joining the Lakers, Nash spent eight seasons with Phoenix, where he enjoyed arguably his best moments as a pro.

Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point guard (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

Ironically, Nash barely missed out on seizing a third consecutive MVP trophy, placing second with 44 first place votes, 39 shy of Nowitzki’s 83.

“Well, he was one of the greatest guards to ever play,” Nowitzki said of Nash. “He was an unbelievable competitor, as mentally tough as they get, as mentally tough as anyone I’ve seen in this league. He wanted the big shot. He wanted to be a part of the big games, played through injuries. He was just as tough as it gets and he was my friend.”

Unfortunately for Nash, a rash of injuries in recent years significantly limited his ability to perform efficiently, thus leading to him officially calling it a career.

RISING SUN --- Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

RISING SUN — Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

After sustaining a broken leg during his first season with the Lakers, Nash was never the same player again. Consequently, he endured neck, back, and muscle issues from which he never recovered.

Last summer, Nash announced that this season would be his last. However, after experiencing continuous back pains that have been hampering him since the preseason, Nash on March 21 formerly announced his retirement.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nash played at the University of Santa Clara before he was selected with the 15th overall pick by Phoenix in 1996.

A little more than a decade removed from having played with Nash, Nowitzki finally was able to put his and Nash’s careers into perspective.

“I was disappointed at the time,” Nowitzki said of Nash’s unceremonious departure from Dallas. “But you know, looking back at our careers, maybe it was better that way. We both flourished away from each other. But looking back, I’ll always have a smile on my face of the times we had together.”

To his credit, Nash’s unorthodox style of play inspired a number of other NBA point guard, most notably fellow international player Tony Parker of the Spurs.

“He was one of the best point guards in the history of the league,” Parker said. “He had a great mind for basketball. He was a great passer obviously and we’re definitely going to miss him. I’ve had some great battles against him when he was with the Phoenix Suns. I wish him luck in his next challenge in life. We’ve always been good friends and learned a lot just watching him play.”

DrePicAndre 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.

 

Stephen F. Austin Univ. graduate Michelle Davis chasing broadcast journalism dreams

Michelle Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis --- even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies --- boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist. (Photos submitted by S. Sonii)

DREAM CHASER — Michelle Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis — even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies — boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist. (Photos submitted by S. Sonii)

IRVING, Texas — Michelle Davis was in the sixth grade when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred a little more than 13 years ago.

As if the worst attacks on United States soil transpired yesterday, Davis recalls tuning in frequently to witness the assortment of media reports surrounding a tumultuous encounter that resulted in thousands of deaths.

“And all I remember is that everyone was coming together as one,” Davis said during a recent interview.

While Davis, 25, watched intensely the various developments surrounding what Americans have deemed “9/11,” it simultaneously fueled her desire to someday embark upon a career in the mainstream media industry.

Davis, who resides in Irving, Texas, graduated last May from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/Television. Having minored in Journalism, Davis — even after 10 months removed from having completed her undergraduate studies — boasts lofty aspirations of fulfilling her dream as a broadcast journalist.

Given the compelling strides she’s made since she bolted Stephen F. Austin, Davis appears destined to someday emerge as a household name much like renowned CNN broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper, among others.

MAKING STRIDES --- As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage. So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

MAKING STRIDES — As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage. So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

 

“I really enjoy watching Anderson Cooper,” Davis said. “He’s not a traditional reporter to me and he always seems to be himself no matter what.”

As Davis gears toward finding her niche in what many believe is a competitive industry in which journalists are often viewed as celebrities, much her time in the journalism arena is spent shadowing a Dallas-area media member to NBA games at American Airlines Center, where she has the luxury of watching various mainstream media personalities partake in pregame and postgame coverage.

So far, Davis has met NBA All-Stars Chris Paul, LeBron James, D’Andre Jordan, Kyrie Irving, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, among others.

“The thing that has been the most inspiring about covering these NBA games is just being amongst individuals who are into the same things as I and that’s media coverage,” Davis said. “It was a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone seems so willing to give some of their wisdom when the time allowed them to do so.”

SOLID SUPPORT --- As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.  “Words can't describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there's one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she's destined to be in due time.”

SOLID SUPPORT — As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.
“Words can’t describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there’s one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she’s destined to be in due time.”

As Davis continues to cover NBA games, amongst her key objectives is to broaden her reporting, news writing, and interviewing techniques — mechanics that are especially essential for aspiring journalists.

With proper practice and more professional experiences, chances are her journalistic fundamentals will become just sharp and compelling as the pros with whom she aspires to work.

“The thing I love most about the news industry is the fact that it reaches millions all over the world and can sometimes bring us together for a common good,” said Davis, a graduate of L. D. High School in Hurst, Texas.

As she continues to work diligently toward fulfilling her journalistic dreams, Davis’ mother, Sewei Sonii, said she’s impressed with how her daughter has steadfastly pursued her making her dream of someday being thrust in front of a television camera a reality.

“Words can’t describe my feelings I have for my daughter,” Sonii said. “She was the first to graduate from college. Michelle knows how to teach and dance, but mass media is her passion. Whenever people tried to discourage her, that made her work even harder. I know this is the field that she was meant to be in. If there’s one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to do. It may take hard word, patience and tears, but she will get where she’s destined to be in due time.”

Much like Davis did before her mother, a native of Monrovia, Liberia, gave birth to her some 2 ½ decades ago.

“Michelle is my third child and my first daughter,” Sonii explained. “My relationship with Michelle started when I was only three weeks pregnant. She literally kept me off my feet for nine months. From then, she let me know that she was here and she was here to stay.”

SNEAK PREVIEW --- Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of David, this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.  “This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

SNEAK PREVIEW — Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of David, this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.
“This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

Chances are the mainstream media world hasn’t seen the last of this vibrant aspiring journalist who, given the commendable strides she’s made in recent months, appears destined to fulfilling her dreams.

“This road hasn’t been easy since Day 1,” said Davis, “But I will continue to apply myself in all areas when it comes to mass communication to get to where I desire to be in the future.”

Stay tuned.

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

 

OKC rival Memphis Grizzlies respond to Kevin Durant’s latest injury development

DALLAS — In three of their last four playoff appearances, the Memphis Grizzlies went to battle against the Oklahoma City Thunder, including the last two seasons.

THUNDER STORM WARNING --- If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Oklahoma City Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing Kevin Durant, the NBA’s reining MVP. That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been "removed from basketball activities" and could be shut down for the season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

THUNDER STORM WARNING — If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Oklahoma City Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing Kevin Durant, the NBA’s reining MVP. That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been “removed from basketball activities” and could be shut down for the season. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

If the Grizzlies wound up squaring off against the Thunder for a third consecutive year in the postseason, the possibility exists that they will do so without facing the NBA’s reining MVP.

That’s because Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Friday announced that Durant has been “removed from basketball activities” and could be shut down for the season.

The news of Durant’s latest setback surrounding a right foot injury came as a shock to a Thunder team that is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. According to team officials, Durant’s foot reportedly has caused him more pain after he underwent surgery Feb. 23.

Durant, who traveled with the team to Dallas for Monday’s outing and underwent treatment before that game, told MemphiSport.com, “I’m feeling better. I’ll be re-evaluated in a few days and will be ready to go soon.”

However, as early as Friday, Durant’s injury apparently had taken a turn for the worst, a development team officials believe will likely sideline the seven-year veteran for the remainder of the season.

That OKC will likely be without Durant, its best player, if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Reuters)

That OKC will likely be without Durant, its best player, if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Reuters)

“He’s not making the progress we’d hoped or expected,” Presti said.

That OKC will likely be without its best player if it clinches a playoff berth for a sixth consecutive year came as a surprise to the Grizzlies, who have faced the Thunder in the postseason in three of the last four years.

Memphis made its first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history in 2013 after eliminating the Thunder in five games. That year, the Thunder were without point guard Russell Westbrook, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the playoffs’ opening round.

“I feel bad for him,” Grizzlies center Marc Gasol said of Durant’s injury following Friday morning’s shoot around in American Airlines Center. “Great player. Special guy. Special player. I got to know him a little bit during the All-Star weekend. But I feel bad for him. I know how much he loves the game and how much he wants to be out there. And I feel bad for him.”

Like Gasol, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said the news of Durant likely being shut down the rest of the year came as a shock, considering he had been hearing that Durant was recouping comfortably from the foot injury.

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Russell Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career. Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over Atlanta. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Russell Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career. Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over Atlanta. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“I have not heard about it. That’s news to me right now,” Conley said.

Since Durant underwent surgery last month in attempt to alleviate soreness and discomfort in his right foot that was being caused by a screw inserted in October during a procedure to repair a Jones fracture, Westbrook has played arguably the best basketball of his seven-year career.

Currently the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 27.8 points per game, Westbrook has been nothing short of remarkable of late, having recorded a league-best nine triple doubles, his latest of which came in OKC’s 123–115 home win Friday night over the Atlanta Hawks (36 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds).

So resilient Westbrook has been after what was an injury-ridden season last year for the former UCLA star that he has emerged as a legitimate candidate for league’s Most Valuable Player.

However, earlier this week, Westbrook reiterated that individual accolades are the least of his concerns, especially considering the Thunder are battling for their playoff lives during the season’s stretch run. At 39-30, OKC owns a two-game lead over ninth-place New Orleans for the pivotal eighth spot in the West.

“I don’t know,” said Westbrook, when asked if he’s playing the best basketball of his career. I take it one day at a time, man, and keep doing what I’m doing. I have no take (on the MVP race). My job is to come out and play at a high level every single night.”

But whether Westbrook and Co. will have Durant back for what figures to be an intense postseason in the always rugged Western Conference remains unclear.

As of Friday, team officials hinted that a Thunder playoff run this year likely will take place without arguably their best player.

“You know, it sucks to have any kind of injury,” Conley said. “And the situation (Durant) is going through, I know he wants to be back on the court. So that’s tough for him and the organization. But I’m sure they’re doing whatever’s best for him and the team.”

DrePicAndre 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.

 

Former Kentucky Christian DL JeR’yl Christian aiming to impress pro football scouts

DALLAS — The countdown has begun for JeR’yl Christian to witness the chance of lifetime.

“It’s really a big dream to me because I’ve been playing (football) since the age of five,” Christian, a former Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman, said during a recent interview. “I love the passion of the game and can’t anyone hold me back. I’ve work hard each and every day. I’ve dreamed about this day.”

After auditioning for various CFL teams in the coming days at California University of Pennsylvania, for Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman Jer'yl Christian is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.  For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life. (Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ — After auditioning for various CFL teams in the coming days at California University of Pennsylvania, for Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman Jer’yl Christian (No. 49) is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.
For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life.
(Photos courtesy of KCU Athletics)

The day Christian is alluding to is an organized Canadian Football League tryout at California University of Pennsylvania. Located on 294 acres in the rural establishment of California, Pennsylvania, the school known as “Cal U” is just 35 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River.

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL. “There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL.
“There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

After auditioning in the coming days at Cal U, Christian is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.

For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life.

According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL.

“There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”

After a stellar high school career in which he had drawn interests from a host of Division 1 colleges, Christian ultimately decided to take his football talents to Akron University. However, following a red shirt year and the subsequent firing of Akron’s coaching staff, Christian transferred to Kentucky Christian, where he enjoyed three efficient seasons for the NAIA member Knights.

To his credit, Christian helped propelled the Knights to a 5-6 mark this past season, a two-game improvement from the previous year.

Arguably his most productive season at KCU was his junior campaign, which was a coming out party, of sorts, for Christian. That’s because he emerged as a catalyst of the Knights’ defensive unit, having recorded a team-best 57 tackles, including 13 ½ of which was for lost yardage.

LEAST HE FORGET --- As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.  Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

LEAST HE FORGET — As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.
Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

Add to the fact that this rugged defensive lineman — who garnered preseason All-American honors — recorded 5 ½ sacks and had three forced fumbles, and it’s no wonder the possibility exists that many believe his best playing days are ahead of him.

As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.

Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.

REMEMBERING BARB --- Christian's current Facebook profile photo features artwork of him and his late grandmother.

REMEMBERING BARB — Christian’s current Facebook profile photo features artwork of him and his late grandmother.

“It really broke my heart,” Christian said of his grandmother’s death. “But I know she’s here with me throughout everything. I just want a chance to prove that I can play at any level.”

His golden opportunity will take place in the coming days which, according to him, is a chance of a lifetime that is.

Let the countdown begin.

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

 

Former prep baseball standout Kali Payton III thriving as a motivational speaker

KaliLike a number of his peers, Kali Payton III would be the first to tell you he has endured his share of hardships and turmoil.

For starters, Payton was raised in what he describes as one of America’s most dangerous, poverty-stricken establishments, the John DeShields housing projects in East St, Louis, Illinois.

And, as a youngster — eight years old to be exact — he and his family wound up on the wrong side of some horrific news when word spread that his father was murdered.

Fast forward to a few years later, Payton still found himself having to weather an assortment of tumultuous encounters — occurrences that given how much this vibrant 33-year-old ex-military veteran has flourished in recent years, is valid proof why he has steadfastly taken on a newfound disposition on life.

“I have failed in business nine times and lost two homes to foreclosure. I celebrated my 21st birthday in Afghanistan in 2002,” said Payton, an Air Force veteran, said during a recent interview.

Fortunately for Payton, a former East St. Louis High baseball standout, his slew of obstacles are what ultimately inspired him to assume yet another venture, one that undoubtedly will enhance and aid others to maximize their potential.

A resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina, Payton is a Motivational Speaker and Life/Business Coach for Kali Is Speaking, an endeavor that has benefited him mightily, considering he has emerged as a fixture in various establishments across the country.

To his credit, Payton has spoken and his put his motivational skills on display in places such as his native home state of Illinois, North Carolina, and Florida, among others — a list that figures to expand in the foreseeable future.

A former East St. Louis All-Star catcher who wore former Major Leaguer Mike Piazza’s jersey number, Payton acknowledges that his competitive drive through baseball essentially fueled his desire to become a motivational speaker and life coach.

Among the reasons is that in spite of the array of curve balls life has often dealt him, he says that isn’t a reason for individuals — especially those from downtrodden communities like him — to live beneath their privileges.

“I had raw talent as a power hitter,” Payton explains. “But as the competition increased, my effectiveness decreased. I just couldn’t figure out why. Then my high school coach, Mr. Brown, taught me that I didn’t need to lead the team in home runs but in RBI’s. I batted clean up, so it was my job to make enough contact to make sure other players advance and either score or get in position to score.

“What I do in my business today is the exact same thing,” Payton continued. “I use my life experiences to help others advance or position themselves to reach their destinations. What I love most is knowing that I was chosen to impact the lives of others in a positive way. It blows my mind each time I think about it.”

Arguably Payton’s single, most underlying objective as a motivational speaker and life coach is to empower others to connect with their life’s work — or their purpose, of sorts — a life-changing attribute that was instilled in him by his godfather, Lee Coleman II.

“He inspired me to live out my full potential and serve humanity with my whole heart,” Payton said.

Fortunately for Payton, he’s savoring the purpose for which he was created, considering his latest endeavor is starting to come full circle, thus embraced by countless individuals in the Fayetteville area and other portions of the country.

Among the reasons is that Payton conducts a weekly class at nearby Jesus Peace Ministries in Fayetteville, which is an economic empowerment session for people who aspire to become entrepreneurs.

As for his itinerary, he is scheduled to teach youths on how to overcome the fear of public speaking as part of a Spring Break camp that is scheduled for April 6-10.

Given the success he has enjoyed in recent years, it’s safe to assume that Payton has adjusted comfortably as a motivational speaker and life coach, in large part because he has functioned in such a commendable role for two years. Aside from that, he has been an accomplished licensed minster for nearly nine years, an accolade that has contributed greatly to his latest endeavor.

In other words, Payton doesn’t shy away from the notion that he welcomes putting his skills on display before sizable crowds. Given the adversities he has managed to conquer during his life, he’d be the first to admit that he was built to handle such work.

“I just don’t believe any person should live a life that they are not happy with,” Payton said. “We are all created for the same thing…to serve humanity. Serve with our gifts, talents, and abilities with the sole purpose of gaining resources that will expand our platform. Ultimately, we must press repeat and do it all over again…a simple reason of why we all exist.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Kali Is Speaking or to contact him for a speaking engagement, check out Kali Payton III at:

www.regeneratemypurpose.com

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

Southwind High salutatorian Maliq Brewster conquers life’s toughtest obstabcle

Wendy Brewster has been married to her husband, Marcus, for 15 years. They have three sons.

When it comes to the couple’s middle child, Maliq DeAndre Brewster, his mother often refers to him as “a chubby little guy” who, according to her, has always been “very friendly and active for his size.”

MaliqMainA senior at Memphis Southwind High, 18-year-old Maliq will be faced with what obviously is a good problem, of sorts.

For starters, Maliq is one of the most decorated students in Southwind’s forthcoming graduating class, considering he is the salutatorian for the Class of 2015.

Add to the fact that he boasts a laundry list of colleges vying to offer him an academic scholarship this fall, and it’s no wonder why things are holding up favorably for the No. 2 overall student in this year’s graduating class at Southwind.

“There is nothing he can’t do,” Wendy said in assessing her son’s academic success in recent years. “We are very, very excited to hear him at commencement. His speech, the part I have heard, will make me cry. He may be No. 2 at Southwind High, but he is one of our number ones.”

To get a thoroughly indication of why Wendy and her family will likely find themselves armed with Kleenex and handkerchiefs on graduating night, look no further than the tumultuous events that recently surrounded their son.

Approximately eight years ago, Wendy’s mother noticed that Maliq was losing weight at a seemingly swift pace, a sequence that seemed unfamiliar to his loved ones. Consequently, the Brewsters had taken him to a nearby pediatric center for observation. What they discovered shortly thereafter sent shock waves throughout their household.

After a scheduled referral by doctors and a couple of performed colonoscopies, it was discovered that Maliq was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

For the Brewsters, such news was apparently too difficult to stomach, in large part because they had no prior family history surrounding the disease.

“The doctor said, ‘You’re the sickest well-looking child I know,’” Wendy explained. “So, for the past couple of years, he was medicated but he had extensive swelling of the legs and losing protein. The next option was surgery.”

MIRACLE CHILD --- To get a thoroughly indication of why Wendy and her family will likely find themselves armed with Kleenex and handkerchiefs on graduating night, look no further than the tumultuous events that recently surrounded their son.  Approximately eight years ago, Wendy’s mother noticed that Maliq was losing weight at a seemingly swift pace, a sequence that seemed unfamiliar to his loved ones. Consequently, the Brewsters had taken him to a nearby pediatric center for observation. What they discovered shortly thereafter sent shock waves throughout their household. After a scheduled referral by doctors and a couple of performed colonoscopies, it was discovered that Maliq was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

MIRACLE CHILD — To get a thoroughly indication of why Wendy and her family will likely find themselves armed with Kleenex and handkerchiefs on graduating night, look no further than the tumultuous events that recently surrounded their son.
Approximately eight years ago, Wendy’s mother noticed that Maliq was losing weight at a seemingly swift pace, a sequence that seemed unfamiliar to his loved ones. Consequently, the Brewsters had taken him to a nearby pediatric center for observation. What they discovered shortly thereafter sent shock waves throughout their household.
After a scheduled referral by doctors and a couple of performed colonoscopies, it was discovered that Maliq was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

Even after undergoing multiple procedures and additional tests, it’s safe to assume that Maliq essentially had taken his illness in stride.

In fact, it seemed he had passed such an obstacle in flying colors just like his array of high school assignments

How else to explain why this academically-talent, gifted kid today owns a cumulative grade point average of 4.19?

“All of this and not missing a day of school,” Wendy said in assessing how her son conquered Crohn’s. “Even after appointments, he wanted to go (to school). He didn’t want to miss any school work.”

DEFYING ODDS --- Even after undergoing multiple procedures and additional tests, it’s safe to assume that Maliq essentially had taken his illness in stride. In fact, it seemed he had passed such an obstacle in flying colors just like his array of high school assignments How else to explain why this academically-talent, gifted kid today owns a cumulative grade point average of 4.19.

DEFYING ODDS — Even after undergoing multiple procedures and additional tests, it’s safe to assume that Maliq essentially had taken his illness in stride.
In fact, it seemed he had passed such an obstacle in flying colors just like his array of high school assignments
How else to explain why this academically-talent, gifted kid today owns a cumulative grade point average of 4.19.

Exactly one week before Christmas, though, doctors had planned a surgery for Maliq only to discover he had more Crohn’s infection than the human eye could observe during preliminary tests, a development the Brewsters feared would ultimately give way to additional complications.

Consequently, Maliq underwent two blood transfusions, but the surgery had to be stopped because of excessive blood loss. After an approximately 24-hour delay, surgery was resumed and, according to Wendy, “It was a success.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Come graduation night, before Maliq’s name is called to receive his diploma, the Brewster’s middle child will likely recall his life-changing story capped by a dramatic comeback for the ages.

Chances are, there likely won’t be a dry eye in the place.

“He is our walking and talking miracle,” Wendy said of Maliq.

Now with arguably his life’s grandest occurrence all but a distant memory, Maliq now faces a much-anticipated dilemma, or a good problem, of sorts.

So far, he has narrowed his college choices to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Xavier-Louisiana, and Hampton University.

Maliq has two brothers, his older brother Raheem-Asad Merriweather, 23, and his younger brother Cameron Brewster, who is 14.

Maliq has two brothers, his older brother Raheem-Asad Merriweather, 23, and his younger brother Cameron Brewster, who is 14.

“I will encourage my peers to not give up and they can do anything they want,” said Maliq, when asked what he will discuss during his speech. “People will talk about you whether you do good or bad. There will always be criticism, so do what makes you happy. I want to be a male nurse, because I’ve come this far and overcome the adversities that have been set before me. So I believe I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Spoken like a walking and talking miracle.

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

Dallas-area youth hoopster Kaelen Jackson excelling despite mom’s long work hours

KAELENDALLAS — Cosha Jackson customarily goes above and beyond to ensure her family is well taken care of.

So much, in fact, that in many instances, Jackson works as many as six days a week.

Still, although working consumes much of her time, Jackson makes certain she bolts her job in time to attend games for her son, Dallas-area amateur basketball player, Kaelen Damon Jackson.

“He started playing in his mama’s backyard at the age of three,” Cosha said during a recent interview. “Not until the age of five he began playing with his first team, (the Beckley Bears).”

Despite being mostly an undersized player ever since he began playing competitive basketball, Kaelen still has proven to hold his own on the court as a marquee player for Dallas’ NorthStars 10-and-under team.

Nicknamed “K-Man,” Kaelon’s key contributions helped steer the NorthStars to an impressive 13-3 mark that was culminated recently with an elusive championship.

“I knew he could do it despite his height. I was and still am a proud mother,” Cosha said her son’s display this past season for the NorthStars.

In assessing her son’s success as a rising athlete, Cosha credits the NorthStars coaching staff for aiding her in ensuring her son goes full throttle, particularly when her job often conflicts with getting him to and from practice.

“I work six days a week,” Cosha said. “Kaelen has great coaches that make sure he gets to practices and to games when I am unable to get him there. But I make sure that I leave work, because I never miss a game. I am my child’s No. 1 fan.”

And never mind that amid the long hours in the workplace, Cosha’s has to swiftly assume another hat — that of the proverbial basketball mom.KAELEN2

“But when I see the enjoyment that my son has when he is on the court, being tired goes out the window,” Cosha said. “I’d do anything for his happiness. That’s what makes me excited. I am overjoyed as a parent. You try to put your kids into activities to keep them busy, and it’s a plus when they excel in that activity.”

A 10-year-old fifth grader at Gateway Charter School, Kaelen assumes the point guard position for a NorthStars team who harbors the  motto: “Hard work beat talent if talent fails to work hard.”

For this vibrant, speedy amateur athlete, without question his immense talents on the court have gone virtually unnoticed, a trend he says hopes will afford him to someday repay his mother for the tireless efforts she has invested in him, on and away from the hardwood.

“Because I am good at it,” said Kaelen, when asked why does he love basketball so much. “And I like the feeling I get when I’m on the court. I get excited.”

More than anything, Kaelen acknowledges, looking out into the stands and seeing his mother’s presence is what ultimately fuels his desire to help his peers be successful.

“My mom says I can be anything I want to be,” said Kaelen, explaining the best advice his mother frequently gives him. “I want to play in the NBA when I get older, so she told me to work hard and it will come true.”

However, landing on basketball grandest stage won’t merely come easily, Cosha says often tells her son.

“I always tell Kaelen nothing in life is going to be giving to him,” Cosha said. “You have to work hard to get what you want. The sky’s the limit (for him) because he has dedication. His dream is to play professional basketball. As long as he never gives up on himself, his dream will become a reality. I tell Kaelen, ‘Never put limits on yourself.’ Whatever he set his mind to do, I know Kaelen will achieve it.”

Among the reasons is that his mom demonstrates that daily.

So much for being so exhausted after working long hours.

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

 

Dallas-area dual-sport athlete Demonte Greene thriving with help of dad

HUGE ASSIST --- To get a thoroughly understanding of why Lamont Green partakes in customary pregame rituals while preparing to witness his son play the game he’s come to embrace, look no further than the strides little Demonte has made in his brief time on the amateur hoops circuit.  For starters, Demonte played integral role in helping propel the Dallas NorthStars 10-and-under AAU squad to a recent championship. While assuming the shooting guard position, Demonte has gone to great lengths to demonstrate why good sportsmanship and fine-tuning his fundamentals are essential with regards to flourishing as a young athlete.  (Photos submitted by L. Greene)

HUGE ASSIST — To get a thoroughly understanding of why Lamont Green partakes in customary pregame rituals while preparing to witness his son play the game he’s come to embrace, look no further than the strides little Demonte has made in his brief time on the amateur hoops circuit.
For starters, Demonte played integral role in helping propel the Dallas NorthStars 10-and-under AAU squad to a recent championship. While assuming the shooting guard position, Demonte has gone to great lengths to demonstrate why good sportsmanship and fine-tuning his fundamentals are essential with regards to flourishing as a young athlete. (Photos submitted by L. Greene)

DALLAS — Oftentimes, Lamont Greene admittedly has to listen to music while preparing to watch his son, 10-year-old amateur basketball player, Demonte Greene, in action.

That’s not all he does.

“Well game day usually consists of breakfast, music to get the mind right while getting dressed, and prepared for the game with a small prayer too bless the game, and a moment of silence to regroup and focus on the task at hand,” Lamont Greene said during a recent interview.

To get a thoroughly understanding of why Lamont Green partakes in customary pregame rituals while preparing to witness his son play the game he’s come to embrace, look no further than the strides little Demonte has made in his brief time on the amateur hoops circuit.

A student at nearby Birdie Alexander Elementary, Demonte says his favorite basketball player is LeBron James while his top football player of Dez Bryant. According this thriving, vibrant athlete, it is the continuous success of these two professional athletes that essentially has fueled his desire to broaden his horizon as a youth athlete.

A student at nearby Birdie Alexander Elementary, Demonte says his favorite basketball player is LeBron James while his top football player of Dez Bryant. According this thriving, vibrant athlete, it is the continuous success of these two professional athletes that essentially has fueled his desire to broaden his horizon as a youth athlete.

For starters, Demonte played integral role in helping propel the Dallas NorthStars 10-and-under AAU squad to a recent championship. While assuming the shooting guard position, Demonte has gone to great lengths to demonstrate why good sportsmanship and fine-tuning his fundamentals are essential with regards to flourishing as a young athlete.

A dual-sport athlete that is.

Two-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP LeBron James is Demonte's favorite basketball player.

Two-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP LeBron James is Demonte’s favorite basketball player.

“I’m so thrilled that Monte has be playing with (the NorthStars) for couple years now,” Lamont said. “That’s why their team is so special. The play football together as well. They are all on the same team, winning the championships in both basketball and football.”

A student at nearby Birdie Alexander Elementary, Demonte says his favorite basketball player is LeBron James while his top football player of Dez Bryant. According this thriving, vibrant athlete, it is the continuous success of these two professional athletes that essentially has fueled his desire to broaden his horizon as a youth athlete.

“He tells me all the time to do things right the first time all the time,” said, Demonte, when asked what is the most advice given him by his father. “He tells me that, ‘If you live like that eventually it becomes natural to you.”

Demonte relishes the fact that when he suits up for competition, his father is a few yards away in the stands cheering him on, steadfastly proving yet again that he undoubtedly is his grandest supporter.

“My dad comes to every game and pushes me to get better,” Demonte said. “He makes me workout on my own time, makes me take part in all type of drills.”

Like his father, Demonte also acknowledges that among the reasons he’s enjoying success as a rising accomplished athlete is that his coaches have done the necessary strategies to ensure he and his teammates demonstrate solid sportsmanship, let alone a resilient work ethic as a unit whether on the hardwood or gridiron.

Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant is Demonte's No. 1 football player.

Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant is Demonte’s No. 1 football player.

“Coach West and Coach Delone are great coaches and motivators,” Lamont said. “They bring the best out of Monte.”

As for the pivotal life lessons he routinely instills in his son, well, such trends undoubtedly begin in the home, Lamonte said.

“Life lessons…well I teach him to be a man, be respectful, honest, a man of God, be a leader, develop good work, and develop study habits,” Lamonte said. “That means grades first and student athlete second. There’s plenty of room to grow being so young and talented. He also has a great family base and support to keep his head right mentally and spiritually.”

All of which of course, is why his beloved father look forward to his customary pregame rituals on game day for little Demonte.

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

Longtime SCS supervisor Betty Pegues uses life’s lessons to start cleaning business

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — While growing up in the heart of North Memphis, Saturday mornings in the household where Betty Pegues resided were virtually foreseeable.

TREND SETTER --- Fortunately for Betty Pegues, the professional relationships she has built throughout her career for SCS has given way to more success, particularly as a thriving business owner.  As chief operating officer of Affordable Cleaning Services, Pegues’ current client is Cricket Communications in which licensed, bonded, and insured business provides service for three locations throughout the Memphis metropolitan area.  (Photos submitted by W. Pegues)

TREND SETTER — Fortunately for Betty Pegues, the professional relationships she has built throughout her career for SCS has given way to more success, particularly as a thriving business owner.
As chief operating officer of Affordable Cleaning Services, Pegues’ current client is Cricket Communications in which licensed, bonded, and insured business provides service for three locations throughout the Memphis metropolitan area.
(Photos submitted by W. Pegues)

Watch her mother, Vernice Johnson, cook breakfast.

Watch wrestling with father, Edward Johnson, Sr.

Clean the house.

Especially clean the house.

The third oldest of 15 children, Pegues was often thrust as the ringleader with regards to ensuring that she and siblings fulfilled their regular responsibilities of keeping a three-bed room house tidy.

“I came from a large household,” Pegues said during a recent interview. “But our house was one of the cleanest on the street.”

To her credit, while being raised mostly in a Christian environment in which attending church on Sundays and learning life’s toughest of lessons were essentially traditionally for what has always been a close-knit family, Pegues deemed it necessary to adopt clean establishments as a lifestyle, of sorts.

A veteran employee for Shelby County Schools (formerly Memphis City Schools) in which she is currently the plant manager for Germanshire Elementary, Pegues, 55, has blossomed into arguably one of the school system’s most sought-after and well-respected facility supervisors.

For starters, Pegues’ track record is such that she has proven to be an award-winning SCS employee, having garnered recognition for High Quality Performance during an SCS career that spans nearly 30 years. Add to the fact that her work has been so frequently recognized and applauded by her employers, that former Westwood High principal Michael Smith in 2004 said he would relocate across town to Kirby High on one condition: if Pegues would come along with him.

PROVEN LEADER --- The third oldest of 15 children, Pegues was often thrust as the ringleader with regards to ensuring that she and siblings fulfilled their regular responsibilities of keeping a two-bed room house clean.  “I came from a large household,” Pegues said during a recent interview. “But our house was one of the cleanest on the street.”

PROVEN LEADER — The third oldest of 15 children, Pegues was often thrust as the ringleader with regards to ensuring that she and siblings fulfilled their regular responsibilities of keeping a three-bed room house clean.
“I came from a large household,” Pegues said during a recent interview. “But our house was one of the cleanest on the street.”

“He’d always tell (school officials), ‘This is my very fine engineer, Mrs. Pegues,’” said Pegues, explaining her success in having built a solid rapport with her former boss. “He always said, ‘Look at these floors because she and staff were responsible for cleaning them.’ He said, ‘If it weren’t for the chemicals she put on them, you could eat off them.’”

Fortunately for Pegues, the professional relationships she has built throughout her career for SCS has given way to more success, particularly as a thriving business owner.

As chief operating officer of Affordable Cleaning Services, Pegues’ current client is Cricket Communications in which her licensed, bonded, and insured business provides service for three locations throughout the Memphis metropolitan area.

According to Pegues, Cora Bailey, an acquaintance who manages one of the local Cricket stores, inspired her to erect her own cleaning business, informing her that there might perhaps be a need for services for several Memphis-area corporate offices.

Consequently, Pegues began to devises plans to start Affordable Cleaning. By mid-March of last year, she had signed her first contract with a client.

WE ARE FAMILY --- A mother of two, Betty Pegues’ daughter, Tiffany Johnson (left), 39, is a 1994 graduate of Whitehaven High. Her son, Andre Johnson, 40, a 1993 Whitehaven High and 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis, resides in Dallas, Texas, where he is an NBA reporter.

WE ARE FAMILY — A mother of two, Betty Pegues’ daughter, Tiffany Johnson (left), 39, is a 1994 graduate of Whitehaven High. Her son, Andre Johnson, 40, a 1993 Whitehaven High and 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis, resides in Dallas, Texas, where he is an NBA reporter.

A business that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, Affordable Cleaning specializes in a variety of services, most notably floor stripping and waxing, shower scrubbing, carpet shampooing and cleaning, and cleanings upon move-ins and move-outs.

While her establishment has been in operations for a year, Pegues emphasized that her experience in detail cleaning dates back to her days when she was hired for the local school system.

“We promote customer satisfaction all the time,” Pegues, a 1977 graduate of Kingsbury High, said. “We make sure our customers are pleased.”

Pleased and satisfied much like her parents during her days of growing up in North Memphis.

“My foundation was when I started cleaning at home,” Pegues explains. “I take pride in what I do. And I love what I do.”

Among the reasons Pegues has gained a passion for her work is that she says the biggest misperception people have about cleaning is that they think cleaning with their hands is beneath them.

“People don’t understand,” she said. “They think you shouldn’t like cleaning up. But I take pride in what I do.”

Such a trend, she acknowledges, has prompted others to buy into her longstanding vision as a rising entrepreneur.

“We are a superb cleaning business,” said William Pegues, Betty’s husband of 17 years who works alongside her.

DREAM CLEAN TEAM --- Such a trend, she acknowledges, has prompted others to buy into her longstanding vision as rising entrepreneur.  “We are a superb cleaning business,” said William Pegues, Betty’s husband of 17 years who works alongside her.

DREAM CLEAN TEAM — Such a trend, she acknowledges, has prompted others to buy into her longstanding vision as rising entrepreneur.
“We are a superb cleaning business,” said William Pegues, Betty’s husband of 17 years who works alongside her.

Betty Pegues has been a plant manager for SCS since 2002, a stint that includes tenures at Westwood High (2002-2004), Kirby High (2004-2007), Riverview Elementary (2007-2008), and Germanshire, where she’s worked for the past seven years.

A mother of two, Betty Pegues’ daughter, Tiffany Johnson, 39, is a 1994 graduate of Whitehaven High. Her son, Andre Johnson, 40, a 1993 Whitehaven High and 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis, resides in Dallas, Texas, where he is an NBA reporter.

Despite an SCS career that spans nearly three decades, she credits a majority of her success to her mother and late father, who passed away in June 2008.

“They were really the beginning for me,” Betty Pegues said. “Had they not taught me how to clean and to do it correctly, I don’t think I’d be as successful as I am. I pretty much know what to look for when I go into a business. I know what to look for and my staff knows what to look for. I have high standards.”

Standards that, to her credit, were birthed long ago in the confines of a three-bedroom house in the heart of North Memphis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information or a free estimate through Affordable Cleaning, call Betty Pegues at 901-351-3251 or email her at: johnsonbettyjean@bellsouth.net. Also, call William Pegues at 901-494-1696.

DrePicAndre 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.