Saturday, October 19th, just days after the Maryville College Men’s Basketball team began official practice in preparation for the upcoming season, coaches and players took some time off to prepare children of the Western Heights community for challenges faced both on and off the court.
Head coach Randy Lambert has made public service events of this nature a tradition for the program by annually hosting events at Culter Grove, John Sevier, and Walland Elementary in efforts to promote the importance of education. Lambert also serves as the chairperson for the Alzheimer’s Walk hosted by MC.
The most recent event put on by the Scots was new to the basketball program, but when asked by the Western Heights neighborhood association to host a clinic for the children, Lambert was glad to accept the offer.
“I’m proud of the athletes, and I want to give them the opportunity to be seen in the community and serve their fellow man,” Lambert said.
Coach Lambert and the players shared the afternoon at the Western Heights Boys and Girls Club with about 35 boys and girls ranging from ages 9 to 18. The event was labeled as a basketball clinic, but was meant to do more than simply teach basketball.
“They asked us to have a clinic, but they also wanted their children to see college athletes and potentially serve as role models to them,” Lambert said.
Western Heights is a subsidized housing neighborhood for low-income families, and is located in the inner-city of Knoxville.
The clinic covered the fundamentals of shooting, ball-handling, passing, and defense. With such a wide range of ages participating,
Lambert said the intent of the clinic was to use the game of basketball as a tool to present some simple life lessons, while also teaching the game.
Scots sophomore sharpshooter Spencer Shoffner said, “The biggest [teaching] emphasis was staying in school and making sure education comes first.”
Shoffner viewed the clinic as a definite success. He said, “You could tell the kids were really into learning new things about basketball and that it was really important to them.”
Lambert also felt this way, adding that he thought the players did a great job of participating and teaching, making it a good experience for all involved.
The children of Western Heights seemed to gain a lot from the clinic, but they weren’t the only ones affected.
“It was hard to say who got the most out of it, the kids or the players,” Lambert said, ”I think (the players) felt very good in spending an afternoon with kids who don’t get opportunities like they do.”
Following the clinic, Lambert was informed by volunteers at the community center that a supposed five current gang members participated in the clinic.
As intended, the clinic taught the children of Western Heights more than how to make a jump shot. The players focused on setting examples for the children and showing them the importance of education.
“It’s all about the kids. As everything starts in the molding process, its important to send the right message at a young age so children can carry it with them as they grow up,” Shoffner said.
Lambert seemed very open to making this event an annual occurrence.
The Scots will join the fight against Alzheimer’s by volunteering in the Alzheimer’s Walk at Honaker Field on Saturday, November 2nd. They square off against Centre College in their season opener on November 15th