On Thursday afternoon, players from the Colorado State University men’s basketball team used their bye-week time to visit the Wilfley Boys & Girls Club in North Denver.
When 11-year-old Sadie Nuno found out players from CSU were visiting, the aspiring basketball player couldn’t wait to play against them.
Nuno plans to try out for the 12- to 13-year-old girls’ basketball team next year. Her “strategy is to play against people who are better” than she is whenever she can, said the fifth-grade student from Trevista at Horace Mann.
“It’s how you get better,” she said. “It was really cool to know I’ll always have the memory of them coming here.”
The day – which involved capture-the-flag, reading time, technology quizzes, and math homework – also created a lasting memory for CSU players Gian Clavell, Emmanuel Omogbo, J.D. Paige, and Prentiss Nixon.
“Being a hometown kid, coming down and doing this for the kids – that’s the most important thing,” said Paige, a liberal arts major and a guard for the CSU basketball team, who attended Rangeview High School in Aurora. “Doing this, I know that kids will appreciate it, and we as players appreciate it, too.”
Forward Omogbo, a senior communications major, agreed.
“Today was good; it was good to interact with the kids, get to know them more, just play around,” he said. “It was like trying to be a little kid again – reading with the little kids, and having fun with them, and just making their day.”
Following the organized games, Boys & Girls Clubs members one-by-one asked the players to help them with activities in the learning and technology centers, leaving the gym devoid of the college players, but the educational rooms full of both players and students.
“What happened today is absolutely important,” said Yvonne Taylor, site director of the Wilfley Boys & Girls Club. “One of the highlights of what I saw happen today is to see the student athletes in the learning center reading with the kids. The message that we try to send is that academics is important and to be a high-caliber athlete and to take the time to read and put a focus on academics is paramount. I think that’s one of the critical things we saw happening in the club today.”
Nixon, a sophomore guard majoring in liberal arts, also hopes the younger students took something beyond athletics from the day.
“As a kid I went to Boys & Girls Clubs and things like that,” said Nixon, who grew up near Chicago. “College is always an option. When you put your mind to it, it can be done, once you get down and just put the work in.”
Nine-year-old Jada Banks said her favorite part of the day was having the athletes be on her team, because sometimes adults decide not to play.
“It was fun that they were participating and that they liked being on our team,” said Banks, who is in fourth grade at Trevista at Horace Mann. “I want to be an athlete like that someday.”
And while Banks looked up to the players at her Boys & Girls Club, a similar thing was happening for the players.
“I realize that no matter what, we need to be grateful for what we have and the situation we’re in because, the way these kids look up to you — it’s just something to appreciate,” said Clavell, a senior guard majoring in liberal arts. “My coach always says ‘you always learn from everybody; it doesn’t matter who it is – little kids, all people.’ At the end of the day it’s a great feeling just spending time with these kids.”
CSU and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver
Colorado State University and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver have an official partnership aligned around a mission of access and the opportunity for students to see that higher education is a viable option for their future. CSU is the first official higher education partner of BGCMD and currently hosts students on campus several times a year, participates in club activities, provides support to students during their time as members of BGCMD, and offers scholarship opportunities and wrap-around support for members who chose to attend CSU to ensure success during their time at the university.