Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A prospect at Prospect

This is not a tale of the emergence of a prodigious talent on the national prep scene, one who sends the hearts of talent scouts fluttering and scribes rushing to their keyboards.

It's about more important matters, concerning the strides made, both personal and on the basketball court, of a young man in San Jose.

He is Tharon King of Prospect High.

His playing basketball serves mightily as a means of self-expression and also belonging, the being a member of something larger outside himself.

However, it's the involvement of the 6-foot-1 senior-to-be in particular with the West Valley Basketball Club (WVBC) that has served as a critical component in his evolution.

Fresh to the world of basketball, no breaks or handouts were forthcoming, nor expected by anyone.

Everything would be earned, be it playing time on the team or moving forward in the classroom.

King understood and appreciated that.

Slippage wouldn't be buried but acknowledged and previous markers of success reached again and surpassed.

The still blossoming result?

Greater confidence.

Greater understanding.

Each an integral factor in both paving and staying on the path to success.

But there is no mistaking his burning passion for basketball nor his respect and appreciation for a number of the adults in his life such as family friend Clara Adams and Coaches Al Grigsby and Bob Bramlett of the WVBC.

Raised by a strong and caring mother, it was also the factors of Adams, Grigsby and Bramlett coming into his life which positively affected King's orbit. Call it the "it takes a village" maxim at work, however limited the population.

So who is King?

In his own words, "vocal and calm."

Someone who dreams of "playing in the NBA (Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose are his favorite  talents) or working as a basketball coach or a mental health therapist. The latter is because "I want to help people with their issues and make their lives much better."

But finishing high school comes first plus additional effort in getting "faster, stronger and jumping higher" so as to carry on his love of roundball.

Asked about his earlier exposure to basketball, King offered, "I didn't make the team in seventh grade (Moreland Middle School) because I didn't know the fundamentals of basketball."

That has changed.

"I became more responsible and more motivated, realizing I can't wait until the last minute if I want a good life," King explained.

In talking about King, Grigsby said, "He always came to our workouts [since the eighth grade] but he never made our traveling team until this season. But he should have been on it last year."

Grigsby added, "He is a very appreciative kid, someone who is really shy and doesn't say much. Tharon never asks for anything and in today's world where players have expectations, you like a kid like that."

King provided some surprises to the WVBC coaching staff this spring.

"In his first game, he played quite well. I had no idea, " Grigsby recalled. "With Tharon, pleasant surprises are now expectations."

Yes, the effort in the classroom must remain as well as progress on the court. College will be the next big challenge.

About roundball at the next level, Grigsby said, "Tharon has a chance."

That's all King wishes.

Here's Coach Bramlett, breaking one of his usually steadfast rules of not speaking publicly about any of his WVBC participants, talking about Tharon:

"Clara Adams called me and mentioned that this young man she knew who needed some structure and she felt we could offer it. The first time I met him, it was clear that Tharon did not have any real basketball experience. He could not dribble, had poor coordination and yet you could see the greater person inside screaming to get out.

It was very important to me that he be treated not as the only special case but one of the special cases. We tell our parents that you have the luxury of loving one player,  we have the responsibility of loving them all.

We talked about commitment. He was assigned the responsibility of calling me every Friday to let me know he was coming on Sunday.

Not one time did Tharon fail to call with the lone exception being his mom had him call once from her phone because she confiscated his because he broke a rule with her.

At these practices he was at, he struggled initially to even remember what he was suppose to do. When the group was punished, some kids actually resented him. My brother recalled a moment when he was sitting near a parent who made a disparaging remark about Tharon holding up the progress of the entire groups.

Soon enough, because we do not accept anything less than compassion from our players for those trying to get it right, unless they are not working hard, kids started encouraging him, helping him, thereby avoiding the penalties associated with mishaps and mistakes.

They brought him into the fold.

The first big step for me as far as realizing truly what kind of young man he is, came when he went to a couple of the players after a session and thanked them for helping him understand the correct way to do a drill he was struggling with and therefore getting the team in trouble. They worked with him during the break in order to insure he would be more comfortable doing the drill. 'They' are Michele Rebozzi and Morgan Woodrow, now of Fresno Pacific and San Diego respectively. It was a lesson that benefited so many more than just Tharon.

From that point on, Tharon went from being an adopted player to a valued member, graduating into the position of even demonstrating drills at the onset of them.

This year, I invited him to come to our Saturday Practice. His response was 'Me, why?' It was asked in an innocent way, which also defines Tharon. I told him that he was traveling with us. His Mom called immediately afterwards because she said Tharon was very confused. I told her that he had earned the right to travel and was selected by the staff. That's the thing. He EARNED it. This is not charity. Some may argue that initially we gave him a chance and, if that is the truth, then there really is something to be said for 'each one reach one and teach one.' He is actually playing well and has a perfect attendance record.

I informed him last week that he was one of our Woodie Award Winners. This is an award named after one of the guys who established the program, Mike Woodie. It is given to the athlete who best resembles the 3 C's: Commitment, Competitiveness and Compassion. Tharon caught up with me after the award announcement and asked me why he had been selected over another player who he believed was the hardest working player in our program  Talk about from the mouth of the innocent.

Tharon falls into that undesirable category established by our society to ascribe our futures and places on earth. He had every reason to fail, prescribed to failure. Ask him how many adults outside his family and Clara, Al and I have invested any time in him.

We will never read about Tharon playing in the NBA. Most of us, unfortunately, wait to hear about their failings either in statistical categories or on the news. We assign them a path and then that path becomes their reality. Tharon is breaking the mode. Truth and honesty is prevailing. The good guys get to win."

Marlo Bramlett, Bob's brother added this: "At the beginning, Tharon had no basketball skills whatsoever. He was very quiet and kept to himself. He went from the kids not wanting to be paired with him to them wanting to play alongside him now. He won't land in D-I but the answer to can he play at the next level is yes. We all need an identity and Tharon achieved his. One day on my way to work, I saw Tharon dribbling a basketball on his way to school -- he took his commitment to a whole new level. Tharon is the poster child for West Valley Basketball -- it's what the program is about. Our goal is to have the kids become better basketball players and persons -- it's more than turning out the best basketball player."

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