The following story appears in the Convention 2017 edition of NABC Time-Out Magazine. To read the full Convention 2017 issue, click here.
With another scintillating men’s college basketball season about to culminate with the 2017 NCAA® Men’s Final Four® April 1 and 3 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, there is much to celebrate with all that has been accomplished on and off the court.
In its fifth year, the Allstate NABC Good Works Team® program garnered a record 181 nominations from college sports information directors and basketball coaches across the country for a very select group of men’s basketball student-athletes who exhibit exceptional leadership skills and an unwavering commitment to volunteerism.
This partnership between Allstate and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) was created to recognize this most outstanding group, which has shown dedication to service in their local communities, nationally and globally. From establishing nonprofits that provide youth with the necessary tools to become leaders of tomorrow, to raising awareness around pertinent issues that could save lives, the student-athletes nominated for this prestigious award exhibit leadership skills both on and off the court.
“The incredible growth of this program over five years is a great tribute to all of these caring and conscientious student-athletes,” said Jim Haney, NABC executive director. “Thanks to the generosity of Allstate, these terrific stories of good works are being shared across America.”
Allstate assembled a high-profile voting panel to select the members of the 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team® including former college basketball student-athletes Grant Hill (Duke University), Clark Kellogg (Ohio State University/CBS Sports) and Len Elmore (University of Maryland/FOX Sports/ESPN); media members Seth Davis (Sports Illustrated/CBS Sports) and Dana O’Neil (ESPN); former head coaches Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech/College of Charleston) and Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech); and Thomas Clarkson, president of the west territory for the Allstate Insurance Company.
The student-athletes selected for the 10-member team, five from NCAA® Division I, and five from NCAA Divisions II, III and NAIA Divisions I and II, have been invited by Allstate, an official corporate partner of the NCAA®, to the 2017 NABC Convention and 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four® in Phoenix, where they will participate in a community service project benefitting the city.
There’s a great deal to learn from the 10 student-athletes named to the 2017 Allstate NABC Good Works Team®, beginning with the student-athletes representing NCAA Division I.
Steven Cook may be the perfect model for Princeton University’s unofficial motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” Over the last two years, the senior forward and economics major has worked as an independent fundraiser for the Gidel Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan, working with the only American physician there to help provide desperately needed resources. In the summer of 2015, Cook served as an intern for the Heartland Alliance in Chicago, helping reorganize business operations at the organization’s largest health clinic for the homeless. In the Princeton community, the two-time All-Ivy League honoree and Academic All-Ivy selection routinely volunteers with the YMCA and other local organizations. His senior thesis is an examination of indicators and interventions that might lead to educational success and advancement in K-12 students in underserved communities, hoping that research may lead to successful programming and policies to help students enroll in college.
DePaul senior Billy Garrett, Jr., has enjoyed a great deal of success in his career with the Blue Demons. The senior guard was the 2014 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, ranks near the top in several career categories, and is a three-time BIG EAST All-Academic selection. All of this is greatly amplified by the fact that he battles Sickle cell disease, a genetic blood disorder with no widely available cure that can cause extreme pain and organ damage. Garrett, with his platform as a standout basketball player, has become an advocate and example for children with the disease that they may accomplish whatever they want to do in life. Before a game at Stanford last season, Garrett met with Mekei, a young boy with Sickle cell who knew Garrett’s story. After talking about basketball and living with the disease, Mekei told his mother that meeting with Garrett was one of the best days of his life.
As a two-time All-Big 12 selection and Bob Cousy Award finalist, Monte Morris has made quite an impact in his four seasons at Iowa State. He has participated in various community events, helping children with disabilities in a Miracle League, worked with Wounded Warriors and Special Olympics, and visited hospital patients in Ames. The senior guard has also spoken to local schools about being a Division I athlete and taking care of your academics. But the former Michigan Mr. Basketball also remains devoted to his hometown of Flint. Morris used social media during the city’s recent water crisis, seeking any donations. With the help of local grocery store Hy-Vee, 11 semi-trucks delivered bottled and gallon water on Morris’ behalf. He has spent time talking with foster children, visiting high school athletic teams at his old high school and has worked at Mateen Cleaves’ “One Goal, One Passion” basketball camp.
When Rand Rowland arrived at Georgia Tech in 2013 as a non-scholarship player, it was quickly apparent that he would do whatever he could to help his team. He has done that and much more in his four seasons, initiating programs to aid and improve the community. He became a leader on the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAB) at Tech and in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He was co-founder and chair of the campus Peer-to-Peer Mentor program and led the implementation of the Project Life Movement to increase the potential pool of bone marrow and tissue donors by testing and registering college students with a simple cheek swab. Around the campus and Atlanta, Rowland has helped in an annual toy collection, delivering toys and monetary donations to Atlanta Children’s Shelter, and volunteered at Ronald McDonald House, serving dinner to families staying there while their children were being treated at a local hospital.
A top defender and sharpshooter on the basketball court for Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Sabri Thompson is scheduled to graduate Magna Cum Laude this spring with a degree in accounting. He has participated in a number of community events including flood relief and is an active participant in both the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and NCAA Champs/Life Skills program on campus. Thompson traveled on a basketball mission trip to China, playing basketball and teaching bible study. Working with the NABC’s Stay In To Win program, which encourages at-risk middle school students to remain in school, he has shown an uncanny ability to connect with students in seven different schools. Thompson was asked to mentor one young troubled student and quickly established a relationship with him and shared activities including attending some early morning team practices. The young man is now on a solid educational path and acknowledged Thompson’s influence in achieving that goal.
The following student-athletes have been selected to represent NCAA Divisions II and III and the NAIA Divisions I and II:
North Greenville University sophomore Bryce Allen had been involved in service activities on campus and in his hometown but took his commitment to help others to another level in the summer of 2015. He traveled to the Wade Center, a Christian non-profit organization in Bluefield, W. Va., one of the state’s poorest cities. Over a nine–week period, Allen assisted each Sunday in acclimating and training mission teams from all over the United States coming to help. Children arrived each day at 7 a.m. for breakfast before breaking into three separate age groups for various activities, including sports. Allen instructed the children on a variety of sports including basketball, along with teaching scripture that they could memorize and use daily. Each child would receive lunch and a snack to take home, which often was the only food for them daily. The afternoon sessions mirrored the morning with Allen working with a different age group.
As a child, Jeremy Deemer had experienced the works of AmeriCorps, whose goal is to help others and meet the critical needs of a community. Over the summer, the Graceland University junior center was involved with an AmericaCorps summer program in Lamoni, Iowa, home to Graceland, working to provide a positive environment and activities for children ages four-to-eight. Each week was themed, ranging from sports week, cooking week and DIY week, etc. Deemer played an integral part in planning and organizing an intergenerational festival for AmericaCorps to bring all generations together in unity. He is a member of Graceland’s community unity team of ENACTUS (Entrepreneurial Club), which works to unite the Graceland community and the town of Lamoni (pop. 2,300). Deemer helped coordinate one event at the local high school where more than 750 people attended to better inform the town’s citizens about the University community.
Over the course of his career, Evan Greening has been a force in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC), earning newcomer of the year honors as a freshman as well as all-conference recognition as a sophomore and junior. The Eagle Scout is also known for his service on campus and in the community. The senior forward at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has volunteered for the American Red Cross, donating blood and installing smoke detectors for Bradford citizens; worked in his home community of Stafford/Fredericksburg, Va., labeling storm drains to prevent dumping of toxic waste in waterways; volunteered for Read Across America, reading to elementary school students; participated in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” walk to end sexual violence; worked at free basketball clinics for young athletes unable to attend elite (paid) clinics; and performed community service at a local federal correctional institution, playing basketball with inmates.
You might call Keith Griffin “dogs’ best friend.” In August of 2015, the Wingate University senior began his own non-profit dog rescue, Griffin K-9 Rescue. Since that time, he has rescued and arranged adoptions for more than 30 dogs to different families across the country. The six-foot-nine center has invested $200 and four hours per day on each dog, bringing them back to health, ensuring that each canine goes to the best home possible so as not to return to a shelter. All of Griffin’s service hasn’t gone to the dogs as he has been active with Habitat for Humanity, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Wingate and is a regular participant at reading days for local elementary and middle schools. He has also volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Monroe after school program, mentoring and assisting with homework. On the court, Griffin helped his team reach the second round of the 2016 NCAA Division II tournament.
When Susquehanna University head coach Frank Marcinek was diagnosed with throat cancer in the fall of 2015, Steven Weidlich knew that he and his team had to take action. Weidlich initiated a program to raise awareness and funds for the Throat Cancer Foundation in support of the Crusaders’ coach. Burgundy/Ivory bracelets marked “No One Fights Alone” were sold to current students, alumni and staff. With a college career marked with service, Weidlich assists the University’s priest with transportation of patients to and from weekly Mass, which includes picking up patients in their living area. The Crusaders’ captain organized, advertised and administered a canned food drive for the Sunbury Salvation Army and prepared, served and cleaned up for a lunch at Elijah Bowl for the Sunbury Soup Kitchen. He and his teammates read to kindergarten students at a local school and Weidlich was one of three students answering questions for 50 incoming freshman students and their parents in September.
Through its partnership with the NCAA, title sponsorship of the Allstate® Sugar Bowl®, and the Allstate “Good Hands®” Field Goal Net program, Allstate has become one of the most recognizable sponsors in college sports.
Since 2008, Allstate has partnered with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) as a sponsor of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®, which shines a spotlight on the positive, off-the-field impact college football student-athletes have on their communities.
This year will also mark the fifth Allstate WBCA Good Works Team®, a partnership between Allstate and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) to recognize women’s college basketball student-athletes for their good works off the court and in their communities.