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.

Sports media types blaming Stephen Curry’s daughter is deplorable on all levels

COMMENTARY

DALLAS — While covering the 2012 NBA best-of-7 opening-round playoff series between the Los Angeles Clippers versus the Memphis Grizzlies, I noticed that Clippers point Chris Paul on several occasions had brought his son, Chris Paul, Jr., to postgame news conferences.

THE REAL MVP --- Although Golden State Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry was named league MVP recently, his two-year-old daughter Riley essentially stole the show during Tuesday night's postgame news conference after the Warriors' 110-106 come-from-behind win against the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals best-of-7 series. (Photos by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

THE REAL MVP — Although Golden State Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry was named league MVP recently, his two-year-old daughter Riley essentially stole the show during Tuesday night’s postgame news conference after the Warriors’ 110-106 come-from-behind win against the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their Western Conference Finals best-of-7 series. (Photos by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

In addition, while in Houston to cover the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant brought one of his daughters to the Media Day festivities as he addressed a massive gallery of reporters.

Which is to say that in the wake of the Golden State Warriors’ 110-106 come-from-behind win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, I deem it downright ridiculous and insulting that several media pundits sounded off negatively about Warriors All-Star point guard Stephen Curry for bringing his beautiful daughter to the postgame news conference.

That several sportswriters had gone as far as to say the presence of the adorable two-year-old Riley, Curry’s daughter — who was allowed to sit on her father’s lap and made disruptive, cute comments terrible twos customarily utter — made it increasingly difficult for them to make their writing deadline is deplorable on all levels.

As a veteran sportswriter who made his professional debut in the print journalism industry some 15 years ago straight out of Journalism School, I am fully aware that one can’t possibly be trusted by his editor to hold such a responsible beat in covering a major college athletic program or professional sports franchise if he or she will often find it difficult meeting brutal reporting deadlines.

SHOW STOPPER --- Several sportswriters had gone as far as to say the presence of the adorable two-year-old Riley, Curry's daughter --- who was allowed to sit on her father's lap and made disruptive, cute comments terrible twos normally utter --- made it increasingly difficult for them to make their writing deadline.

SHOW STOPPER — Several sportswriters had gone as far as to say the presence of the adorable two-year-old Riley, Curry’s daughter — who was allowed to sit on her father’s lap and made disruptive, cute comments terrible twos normally utter — made it increasingly difficult for them to make their writing deadline.

That is, by all accounts, an essential requirement of the job. Reporters, particularly those who are employed by major daily metropolitan newspapers, must be able to gather news under intense pressure, let alone file and submit stories under the tightest and strictest of deadlines.

That several sportswriters had gone as far as to criticize Curry for allowing his precious angel of a daughter to join her league Most Valuable Player father on the postgame platform while he took questions from the media following his 34-point outburst is valid proof that some sports journalists not only are habitual whiners but, most of all, it shows just how soft they are with regards to fulfilling their job responsibilities.

Because, if, by chance, these reporters are routinely faced with stiff deadlines as they harshly suggested after Tuesday’s Rockets-Warriors game, surely they shouldn’t pin blame on Curry, much less blame the presence of his daughter who, to her credit, brought humor and life to what essentially was a boring, dead postgame news conference.

If, by chance, these reporters are routinely faced with stiff deadlines as they harshly suggested after Tuesday game, surely they shouldn't pin blame on Curry, much less blame the presence of his daughter who, to her credit, brought humor and life to what essentially was a boring, dead postgame news conference.

If, by chance, these reporters are routinely faced with stiff deadlines as they harshly suggested after Tuesday game, surely they shouldn’t pin blame on Curry, much less blame the presence of his daughter who, to her credit, brought humor and life to what essentially was a boring, dead postgame news conference.

If nothing else, these journalists ought to blame themselves for their inability to deliver, ought to point fingers at themselves simply because it seems they often have issues in meeting their editor’s lofty expectations while reporting on basketball’s grandest stage.

As for a silver lining to all of this constant postseason murmuring by media members, well, at least they will be afforded the golden opportunity to atone for their lethargic reporting display after Game 1.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Oakland.

Same place.

Same time.

Same tight deadline.

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.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praises each Southwest Division team on making playoffs

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS --- Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS — Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

DALLAS — First team to 16 wins…

“The first one to 16 will have a pretty nice piece for their jewelry cabinet,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while addressing reporters Thursday afternoon at American Airlines Center.

Carlisle was alluding to the 16 teams that have punched tickets to this year’s NBA playoffs, a nearly two-month-long marathon that will culminate with one franchise hoisting the covenant Larry O’Brien trophy.

Now in his seventh season as the Mavericks’ head man, arguably Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dallas to its first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series.

That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths.

This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs.

HOT HANDED HARDEN --- The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer. Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

HOT HANDED HARDEN — The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“I think this is the toughest division in all of (professional) sports,” Carlisle said. “It has been for the last several years.”

Among the reasons is the Spurs (55-27) undoubtedly have been the division’s most consistent and dominant team. Making their franchise-best 18 consecutive postseason appearance when they open defense of their NBA title Sunday night at the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Clippers (56-26), the six-seeded Spurs have won five world titles during this stretch.

As for the Mavs, erasing the memory of last year’s seven-game opening-round defeat to San Antonio certainly will be a brutal task, considering seventh-seeded Dallas (50-32) will face the No. 2 seed Houston Rockets Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CST in Game 1 of their best-of-7 opening-round series.

BLOCK PARTY --- Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

BLOCK PARTY — Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

The Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.

Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. Dallas is making its second straight playoff appearance.

The fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) in FedExForum.

Memphis’ best postseason outing during this span took place two years ago when the Grizzlies manufactured their highest winning percentage and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history.

Arguably the surprise Southwest Division team to make the playoffs is New Orleans.

The NBA’s fourth youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years, the Pelicans (45-37) played arguably their most complete game of the season, which couldn’t have come at a better time, considering New Orleans controlled its own destiny.

Led by Anthony Davis’ 31 points and 13 rebounds, the Pelicans withstood a furious late rally by the defending champs to solidify the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot in the regular season finale, thus ending a four-year postseason drought.

Next up for upset-minded Pelicans is an opening-round date with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, starting with Saturday’s Game 1 at 2:30 p.m. CST.

Led by Stephen Curry, whom many consider the frontrunner for league MVP, the high-octane Warriors enter the postseason with the NBA’s best record at 67-15.

Come Saturday, the race to 16 wins begins.

Which, of course, begs the question: Will the Larry O’Brien trophy remain in the Southwest Division for a second consecutive year?

As far as Carlisle is concerned, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if it does.

“It’s just quality teams from top to bottom,” Carlisle said of the Southwest Division. “During the battles of the division opponents during the year, I mean those were slugfest games. They were extremely meaningful. There’s a lot of wear and tear. (Games) were very physical. They’re emotional. But when you get a division like this, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and it gets everybody primed for this time of year.”

Let the nearly two-month-long marathon begin.

First team to 16 wins…

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.

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.

 

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 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.

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.

 

Univ. of Southwest basketball standout Anitria Flowers aiming to attract pro scouts

BLOSSOMING FLOWER --- Anitria Flowers, a junior college transfer and the University of Southwest's second-tallest player, was the catalyst of a team that made continuous stride this season. (Photos courtesy of USW Athletics)

BLOSSOMING FLOWER — Anitria Flowers, a junior college transfer and the University of Southwest’s second-tallest player, was the catalyst of a team that made continuous stride this season. (Photos courtesy of USW Athletics)

DALLAS — When logging on to the University of Southwest’s women’s basketball website, the first photo you’ll see is that of Anitria Flowers.

Flowers, a junior college transfer and the Lady Mustangs’ second-tallest player, is the catalyst of a team that made continuous strides this season.

Southwest’s season ended in Red River Athletic Conference loss to nationally-ranked Our Lady Of The Lake University April 28. While the Lady Mustangs’ 6-26 campaign suggests, among other things that they struggled considerably this year, in essence, it was a season in which Southwest first-year coach Jamene Caldwell’s team is building for the future.

That future, by all accounts, will surely involve Flowers, a 5-foot-11 combo guard who figures to help steer the team in the right direction for what she pledges will be a memorable senior campaign next.

A player whose favorite quote — at least according to Southwest’s website — is, “Talent is God given. Be humble, fame is manmade. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful,” Flowers doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s destined to not only help propel the Lady Mustangs from years of futility, but she’s also vows to attract the attention of WNBA scouts and general managers by the time she finishes her collegiate hoops career.

Having transferred to Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico after a stellar two-year stint at Howard Junior College, Flowers wasted little time making her presence for a Lady Mustang team that finished the season on a favorable note when it won two of its final three outings.

Having transferred to Southwest in Hobbs, New Mexico after a stellar two-year stint at Howard Junior College, Flowers wasted little time making her presence for a Lady Mustang team that finished the season on a favorable note when it won two of its final three outings.

Having transferred to USW in Hobbs, New Mexico after a stellar two-year stint at Howard Junior College in nearby Big Spring, Texas, Flowers wasted little time making her presence felt for a Lady Mustang team that finished the season on a favorable note when it won two of its final three outings.

A speedy two-way guard, Flowers was aggressive on both ends of the floor for USW, especially on the offensive end, where even as the team’s floor general and facilitator, she appeared assertive against elite talent, penetrating hard to the basket much like she did during her days of running the show as a prep standout for Sundown High in Texas.

“I love basketball because it’s a sport that you can control the outcome and it is structured but you have freedom to show what you can do,” Flowers said during a recent interview. “I have always loved basketball and always will. When I’m on the court whether in practice or a game or just shooting around nothing else matters and it’s just peaceful.”

Because she often presented match-up problems for the opposition, Flowers evolved as one of USW’s most efficient defenders, often hustling her way for block shots and steals — key attributes Caldwell’s believes undoubtedly will be signs of things to come next year.

“Anitria has progressed tremendously during the course of just this season alone,” Caldwell said. “I cannot attest to her work previously to my arriving at USW since this is my first year. However, in the short amount of time that I have been privilege to coach Anitria, she has developed into an aggressive offensive player that can really score at will. She is also one of the best shot blockers I have had the opportunity to coach. She is what I call a quiet assassin on the court. At the end of it, you don’t even realize how her stat line completely changed the game. I know she will (work hard) throughout the summer and into next season and she will be ready for an unforgettable senior year.”

A speedy two-way guard, Flowers was aggressive on both ends of the floor for Southwest, especially on the offensive end, where even as the team’s floor general and facilitator, she appeared assertive against elite talent, penetrating hard to the basket much like she did during her days of running the show as a prep standout for Sundown High in Texas.

A speedy two-way guard, Flowers was aggressive on both ends of the floor for Southwest, especially on the offensive end, where even as the team’s floor general and facilitator, she appeared assertive against elite talent, penetrating hard to the basket much like she did during her days of running the show as a prep standout for Sundown High in Texas.

Among Flowers’ grandest supporters has been her mother, Michelle Flowers. A current resident of Sundown, Texas who often travels hundreds of miles to witness her daughter in action.

“The first time she picked up the basketball, it’s like she had a built in naturalness for the sport and I knew then she would do great things in basketball,” Michelle Flowers said. “When it’s game day I wake up pumped and ready to go, I’m anxious all day because I’m ready to see her play. I love every minute watching her play as a child. Her senior year (of high school) I went to every game. When I found out she was going to play college ball, I smiled from ear to ear and told her she deserved it because she worked so hard to get there. She lives in the gym even when she comes home for weekend and holiday visits. I’m beyond happy for her. I want to see her excel in life.”

As she prepares for what figures to be a memorable senior season, Anitria Flowers’ primary objective, she said, will remain the same.

That is, she pledges to leave it all out on the floor, thus make her mother proud, just as she’s done since she first reached for a basketball at five years of age.

PRO HOOPS MATERIAL? A player whose favorite quote --- at least according to Southwest’s website --- is, "Talent is God given. Be humble, fame is manmade.  Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful," Flowers doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s destined to not only help propel the Lady Mustangs from years of futility, but she’s also vows to attract the attention of WNBA scouts and general managers by the time she finishes her collegiate career.

PRO HOOPS MATERIAL? A player whose favorite quote — at least according to Southwest’s website — is, “Talent is God given. Be humble, fame is manmade. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful,” Flowers doesn’t shy away from the notion that she’s destined to not only help propel the Lady Mustangs from years of futility, but she’s also vows to attract the attention of WNBA scouts and general managers by the time she finishes her collegiate career.

“I will graduate college with my criminal Justice Degree and continue to work hard in the gym to better myself so I have a chance to play at the professional level,” Anitria Flowers said. “My mother has very proud of my grades all throughout school and I’ll continue to keep them up and make her happy. I always keep in touch with my family and that is something that is a must. Family is so important to me. Without them it’s difficult to accomplish all that I already have.”

Stay tuned. Chances are the college basketball world hasn’t seen the last of this kid.

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.