LARNED — Hollywood couldn’t write a better script than one about a juvenile offender, motivated to put himself on a better path, mentored by wise, caring adults, who graduated from a correctional facility to star on a college basketball team.
While it might not make a Hollywood script, the influence of several Fort Hays State University basketball players upon residents of the Larned Juvenile Correctional Facility (LJCF) makes them stars in their own right.
Four members of the FHSU team, with assistant coach Sean Dreiling, visited the facility Sunday to teach a group of juvenile offenders about basketball, as well as to encourage them to make healthy life choices.
“They’ve been doing this for several years, and it really makes an impact on the young men,” said David Hales, LJCF chaplain. “This is a chance for them to interact with heroes in their eyes.”
Hales said due to the popularity of the event, it has become a reward to youth who have attained “upper level status,” at the facility — youth who have worked hard and stayed out of trouble.
The FHSU visitors coached the youth on techniques of the game, as well as helping them learn teamwork and conditioning concepts.
Hales says most of the youth come to the facility “wanting to be little Michael Jordans.” However, he said they don’t know the skills that lead to success on-and-off the court.
Hales said one young man who was recently released from LJCF is a walk-on player with a college team in central Kansas.
“They love to play basketball, and many of them are very good,” said Hales. “They do have a hope of getting noticed, and of having an opportunity to play somewhere.”
For the FHSU players, the benefit of helping with the clinic is in the experience of coaching. Though NCAA rules prohibit them from playing against the youth, they can supervise drills and demonstrate techniques.
The clinic includes contests and competitions as well as drills, and culminates with a scrimmage which the FHSU players coach and officiate.
“A lot of these guys are going to be coaches when they’re done playing, so it’s a great experience for them,” said Hales. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
FHSU assistant coach Jeremy Brown has been bringing players from his program to LJCF for clinics for the past several years. He said the college students benefit from the experience of seeing life inside a correctional facility, and from giving of their time for a good cause.
“Our guys have worked hard and made a lot of good choices to be where they are, and for them to go and set a good example and encourage the youth at LJCF is a really special,” said Brown. “We don’t do it for the attention. We do it because it’s important to (the youth of the facility) and they really appreciate it. Our guys enjoy it and they really look forward to doing it every year.”