How many kids playing basketball dream of sharing the court with players they watch on TV every week? That dream came true for 7th and 8th graders on the Malone Center Panthers this January, when members of the Nebraska men’s basketball team dropped in to pass on some knowledge and assist with the team’s practice.
The Panthers are sponsored by the Clyde Malone Center, which has been a valued part of the community since 1955. The center serves families, youth, and seniors with inclusive, social, cultural, educational, employment, and welfare services. The Malone Center has been a longtime partner of Nelnet, so we wanted to provide these kids with a surprise-and-delight event.
Since the NCAA recently granted college athletes the right to monetize their name, image, and likeness, we thought this would be a great opportunity to get some local sports celebrities involved in the community to inspire and educate the youth.
We worked with the leadership at the Malone Center to arrange this visit from Nebraska student athletes; Bryce and Trey McGowens, Alonzo Verge Jr., Kobe Webster, and Derrick Walker.
To assist practice, the players served as coaches running through drills, then joined in for an extra competitive game of knockout. Afterward, they all came together and the players spoke to the kids about the importance of school, and shared life advice about how athletics are important, but there’s more to life than sports.
“Anything can happen in sports, it can get taken away with the snap of a finger,” said Kobe Webster. “Once you get to our age you want to be thinking about building something without sports. So lock in on school, because we’re all about to graduate college. And for you all to do that, it brings your opportunities up to another level.”
After speaking and then displaying some dunks in their arsenal, they ran a 5-on-5 scrimmage with the Nebraska players against flights of the Panthers kids. Finally, the players signed autographs and took pictures with the kids before saying their goodbyes. Needless to say, this was an extra special practice for the Panthers kids and coaches alike.
“It was great to have these college players here to work with the kids and show how important their education is,” said Coach Marcel Killsenemy. “We’re supporting the next generation of this community, so the better we can serve our kids, the better the future will look all around us.”
You can support the Malone Center by volunteering your time or making a donation. For more information, visit malonecenter.org.