The youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club at the Steve Daru Clubhouse at Speedway and El Rio went to the basketball gym in rotating groups Tuesday afternoon pleasantly surprised of who they came across.
“Do you guys know who these guys are?” asked Corey Williams, a familiar face as well as an Arizona player during the Lute Olson era and an ESPN college basketball broadcaster.
Some of the kids knew that Courtney Ramey, Cedric Henderson Jr. and Kylan Boswell presently play for the Wildcats. Some didn’t.
All that mattered was they enjoyed their time with Wildcats playing basketball, getting autographs and receiving a Nike basketball as a gift.
Williams organized the gathering as the vice president of Crest Insurance, which significantly contributes to youth development and opportunities in Southern Arizona.
Had a great time ! https://t.co/fA4aWzqxLP
— Kylan Boswell (@BamBam_Boz) February 22, 2023
“This is great for us,” Williams said. “We had the opportunity to come out and get with some kids and have a fun time, give them some basketballs.
“The players from the U of A were gracious enough to make time to come over and visit with the kids. I know it means a lot to everybody, so we’re excited.”
Williams plans to have more such activities in addition to running his long-standing Tucson Summer Pro League for Kids.
When AllSportsTucson.com ran its “Tucson Treasures” series in 2020, Williams was featured because of his work with the TSPL dating to 2004.
He started the summer league primarily for college-age players to hone their skills for their careers. Seeing the need to help develop young players from Tucson, from various financial backgrounds, Williams created a kids division in 2013 with one important provision: No AAU or club teams were allowed.
Kids ages 11 to 13 join the league on a first-come, first-serve basis by attending an open run. Because of widespread sponsorship from local businesses, parents only need to pay $25 for their child to participate.
That buys them six weekends of competition, a jersey and lasting memories in addition to a priceless maturation process in which they develop team skills.
“I look at my life and the ability that I had and the opportunity to come out here and play at the University of Arizona, never once playing one minute of AAU and never once really paying anybody to give me any instruction,” Williams said in an interview with AllSportsTucson.com
“I got to the University of Arizona off of pickup basketball in my community (of Batavia, Ill.). That’s how I sharpened myself and I was good enough to play at Arizona. I can’t help but think there are kids out there that if you give them the opportunity, they can reach that level. It’s not about money, it’s about opportunity. As long as we have people (sponsors) that are helping us provide this opportunity, you’re going to see kids develop and grow that may have not gotten the chance because of their situation financially.”
Ramey, Henderson and Boswell appeared to enjoy their time at the Boys & Girls Club as much as the kids. They likely saw a lot of themselves and their development in those youngsters.
Boswell, who does not turn 18 until April, has mentioned in interviews that he started playing basketball in the fifth grade when growing up in Champaign, Ill. Many of the youngsters Boswell met Tuesday where in that age range.
Henderson’s dad, Cedric Henderson Sr., organizes a youth recreational basketball camp in Memphis. He starred at Memphis State before playing in the NBA and overseas.
Ramey started playing basketball when he was 8 for his dad Tim Ramey’s club team in the St. Louis area. Two years after that, the younger Ramey’s mother, Angie Marie Turner, passed away. In an interview with his high school newspaper at Webster Groves (Mo.) when Courtney Ramey was a sophomore, he mentioned that he realized starting at a young age that basketball could create opportunities for his life.
“My mom died, and I wanted to do something that she would be proud of, something that would get me to college,” Ramey said in the 2015 interview. “My mom’s dream was for me to go to college.”
Ramey is a college graduate who transferred to Arizona this school year after spending four years at Texas, where he earned a degree in Physical Culture & Sports with an Education track.
The young faces Boswell, Henderson and Ramey saw Tuesday in the Boys & Girls Club must have brought back memories of them being at the same age and dreaming big.
That’s why they clapped for the youngsters often, even more than the applause they received in return.
“I know when we were players, we got a big kick out of coming out and hanging with the kids,” said Williams, who was part of Arizona’s 1994 Final Four team. “For us, it was always great.
“Free basketballs and an autograph — anything that keeps (the kids) motivated. It’s great for them. You never know where the next hooper is going to come from. Sometimes all it takes is a ball and an opportunity. That’s what I’m trying to give them.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.