Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
To many youths in the South Bronx, Kemba Walker is an inspiration. He is living proof that with hard work, you can achieve any goal that you set out to accomplish. From growing up in the Sack Wern Houses in the Soundview section of The Bronx, he became a true success story. When all odds were stocked against him, he defied the odds by putting in work.
At the now-defunct Rice High School in Harlem, he was a part of a Raiders team that won CHSAA city and state Catholic championships as a sophomore and another state Catholic title as a junior. As a senior, he became a McDonald’s All-American and one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation.
Then, he went on to UConn, where he led the Huskies to two appearances in the Final Four, and also a Big East championship and a national championship as a junior. During his time at UConn, he racked up a bunch of honors, such as Big East All-Rookie Team selection as a freshman, Big East Tournament MVP, Bob Cousy Award and the NCAA Final Four Outstanding Player.
Since being selected as the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, Walker has made quite a name for himself in the League. Throughout the last four seasons, he has averaged more than 20 points and five assists per game. And he has also been a three-time All-Star, a two-time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award and last, but not least, he was selected to the NBA All-Third Team this past season, after averaging 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
But for all of his athletic accomplishments, that doesn’t compare to his giving nature, which includes his generosity and love for the community.
When asked about giving back to the community, Walker replied, “It means a lot, this is the community I grew up in, so, whenever I can, I give back, I try to do my best.”
On Saturday, July 27th, Walker came out to the world-famous Rucker Park in Harlem to support the Kevin Shaw Jr. Foundation Anti-Gun Violence Event. For those that may not know, Kevin Shaw, Jr. was Walker’s high school teammate at Rice and was also a member of the 2006 Raiders championship team that went 25-5.
Shaw graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in a double major of Finance and Accounting from Fairfield University, and also with a master’s degree in Business Administration in 2013 from George Washington University. He was also an accountant at firms such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and KMR, LLP. Shaw had a passion for life and was a visionary that dreamed big.
Shaw passed away on June 24th, 2015. But today his memory lives on through the Kevin Shaw, Jr. Foundation, which was founded by his father, Kevin Shaw, Sr. , and which focuses on academic excellence and awards scholarships to youth that are going to college.
On that day at the Rucker, many of Shaw’s old high school teammates and friends, including Walker, came out to show support to their fallen brother and also reunite. Rice High School closed in June 2011, but the brotherhood remains strong.
When asked what Shaw meant to him, he replied, “He meant a lot to me and many mothers. He was a good person and he had good energy. You know we were real close, so losing him was [tough].”
And also, the Anti-Gun Violence Event also had some basketball games with youths from elementary school up to high school playing on the Rucker asphalt. Professional players such as Tobias Harris, Tyler Harris and Lance Stephenson all came out to show support, as well.
For many of the kids in attendance, it was their chance to see Walker up close and personal. As many know, tickets to NBA games at venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center are super-expensive. However, an opportunity to see an All-Star like Walker was a blessing in disguise for the youths.
“It means a lot [to come to a place like the Rucker]. I want the kids to be able to get the chance to see me. You know, just really understand it’s possible to achieve your dreams.”
One thing you can say about Walker is that he does give back to the community with his time. In the summer of 2013, he refurbished a playground court in his old neighborhood on Rosedale Avenue, which bears his name on it. Today, that court is home to a tournament named, “Top of The Hill,” which is in its first year of inception and is haven for the youth in the community of Soundview.
Also, during the weekend of July 20-21, Walker held a basketball camp at Basketball City in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for youths from the ages of 10 through 17 through MADE Hoops.
Now after eight seasons with the Hornets, he is headed to a new destination. On July 6th, Walker was a part of a sign-and-trade between the Hornets and the Boston Celtics, where he was traded for Terry Rozier. In Boston, Walker will wear No. 8, and is poised for a great season.
When asked what Celtics fans can expect from him come October, he replied with a smile, “I don’t know yet, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The journey of one Kemba Hundley Walker continues.
For more information on the Kevin Shaw, Jr. Foundation on whether to donate, volunteer or apply for a scholarship, visit http://www.kevinshawfoundation.org.
Check out Part 8 on Sunday, August 18th, as we will be chronicling St. Raymond High School rising junior, Malachi Smith, as he talks about his game and his recruitment and playing on the Under Armour Association circuit with the New York Gauchos and playing in streetball tournaments such as the Dyckman Tournament.