Big Apple vs. Big Peach: Life lessons learned

Khadeen Carrington, a sophomore shooting guard at Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) escaped the littered streets of New York City for a bit of Southern Hospitality in Atlanta, Ga. this Thanksgiving weekend for the Big Apple vs. Big Peach Battle. The holiday tournament showcased some of the top high school teams from New York and Georgia alongside providing off-court life lessons for the participants.

“I’m from Brooklyn, so there is a lot of stuff going on, like shootings and gangs,” Carrington said. “Every day you hear about someone dying. It’s nice to come down here and take a break from all of that.”

Dorian Lee and Robert “Bobby” Parker Jr., who saw life beyond their small town hoop dreams in Mobile, Ala., established the inaugural Big Apple vs. Big Peach Battle. They played basketball together at Spring Hill College in Mobile and found ways to stay involved in the game after their playing days. Lee and Parker created the Save the Ball Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps guide young adults through the labyrinth of being a student-athlete.

“The main thing I hope the kids grasp this weekend is that basketball can be whatever you allow it to be for you,” Parker said. “As athletes we get exploited a lot, get used up, tossed out and told to go do something we don’t like once the game is over. I want the kids to know there are a ton of things within in the game that you can build a career from and incorporate your passion.”

Before hitting the hardwood, Carrington and about 50 other players from the Big Apple received lessons in character from the program’s keynote speaker and one of the NBA’s most veracious players, Charlie Ward. The retired point guard and 1993 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State lectured the athletes on his four C’s: character, commitment, choice, and community.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s about grasping that these are the attributes that go into developing into the type of person that God wants you to be,” Ward said.

Ward emphasized to the young student-athletes to perform in life and on the court for the approval of only one person.

“In life you are working for the applause of one, God,” Ward told the New Yorkers. “Our foremost reason for getting an education and participating in extracurricular activities is to gain his approval.”

The former multi-sport standout at Central (Thomasville, Ga.) drew an example from the current NBA lockout when talking about living just for God’s approval. While others lived above their means, Ward lived a respectable lifestyle during his playing days and wasn’t worried about impressing anyone with material possessions. By doing this, he weathered the storm of the 1998-99 NBA lockout.

“In situations like that, instead of being the one who needs the help you should be the one who is providing the help for those in need.”

Ward, who was known for bringing his unwavering faith to the court, didn’t just focus on faith but also addressed tangible life issues student-athletes could relate to.

“I want to be successful and Ward talked about being committed to using basketball as a medium for success,” said Kentan Facey, a junior power forward from Long Island Lutheran (Brookville, N.Y.). “I like engineering and want to be a civil engineer when I grow up."

Bishop Loughlin sophomore forward Elisha Boone added, “I took from Charlie’s speech that girls could be a big distraction in my career and that it could mess me up going forward. I have lots of things to think about in terms of commitment now.”

The inaugural Big Apple vs. Big Peach battle began with a learning aspect and continued with a community service effort with Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thanksgiving day. The weekend will culminate with games on Friday and Saturday to determine whether New York or Georgia has the best high school boys' basketball teams among the two basketball hotbeds.

Adena Andrews is a contributor for espnW. She can be reached at adenaandrews6@mac.com. Don't forget to follow her on Twitter: @adena_andrews