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Decatur varsity basketball players visit BIS sixth graders

By Managing Editor, Lisa Capitelli | Mar 09, 2017
Photo by: Lisa Capitelli Members of the Stephen Decatur boys’ varsity basketball team and coaching staff stop by Berlin Intermediate School last Friday to talk to the boys currently in sixth grade about what it takes to be successful, on and off the court.

(March 10, 2017) Members of the Stephen Decatur boys’ varsity basketball team and coaching staff visited Berlin Intermediate School on Friday, March 3, to talk to the boys currently in sixth grade about what it takes to be successful, on and off the court.

“The intermediate school contacted us because they had some difficulty getting the young men focused,” Decatur Co-Principal Katherine Cater said. “They idolize these guys. They come to basketball games and what a better way for our basketball team to give back to the community and impact these young kids than to share their story, share what it took to get to where they are.”

BIS Principal Tom Sites told the sixth graders that the Decatur players standing before them exemplify what it takes to be successful at the high school level.

“There’s many times that I talk to students in my office, or in the halls or cafeteria about behavior, about getting good grades, about talking to teachers in respectful ways, all these things will take you to this level,” he said to the students. “Every one of you want to be successful in life and want to have these opportunities, so when teachers talk to you about good behavior, about doing the right things, about working hard, getting good grades, studying, or I talk to you, you need to remember what you’re seeing here today because if you want to get here it starts now in sixth grade.”

Sites said the players are role models for the boys, and they look up to them.

“I see my kids walking off the bus shooting hoops in the air, so they’re emulating these guys,” he said. “We wanted them to come here just to be able to tell them what it takes to be a high school basketball, football, baseball player, whatever it may be. It’s not just about playing, it’s about grades and behavior, character, these types of things we try to instill on them in sixth grade, so it carries over into high school.”

Coach BJ Johnson pointed to his players and said this team is ranked No. 2 in Maryland and he credited it to the hard work they have put into playing basketball and the commitment to their academics.

“If your aspiration is to play any sport offered at Stephen Decatur, then you must have good grades. That’s the most important thing,” he told the sixth graders, adding that he once walked the same BIS halls as a student.

“Teachers are very important to you – they care about you. They don’t do it for a paycheck, they do it because they care about your future,” he continued. “I want you guys to think about this question: Why would you want to give someone that’s trying to help you a hard time, whether it’s a teacher, grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, whomever? I remember that question as a young kid and it stuck with me the rest of my life.”

Johnson also talked about senior captain Keve Aluma, who signed to play Division I basketball for Wofford College in South Carolina.

“His education is why he got the scholarship,” he said. “If Keve didn’t have grades, even though he could play Wofford would not have recruited him. His education is paid for.”

When he was a freshman, Aluma said Johnson told him he had the potential to go to college for free if he put in the work.

“I stayed focused on what’s important, worked hard on and off the court and stayed out of trouble,” he said.

Senior Matt Kristick also spoke to the sixth graders. He will attend Division I Temple University in Pennsylvania next year and play golf. He received both athletic and academic scholarships.

“You have to be disciplined on and off the court. You have to behave in the classroom, get good grades, and you have to respect teachers [because] they’re here to help you,” Kristick said. “If you work hard in the classroom anything’s possible. You can accomplish any of your goals. I worked hard in the classroom and got the opportunity to play in college.”

Junior Hayden Frazier, who came to Decatur from Washington, D.C., had not participated in an organized sport before joining the team. Decatur changed his life like he never thought possible, he said. He told the sixth graders to take advantage of those who want to help them, because as they get older there may not be as many people willing to assist.

Johnson told the sixth graders that character is also important.

“Character-wise, this is probably the best group that I’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, the players walked around to the tables the sixth graders were sitting at. They asked the young boys questions, answered some of their questions, and even signed autographs.

“They’re our future and we want to try and reach them at an early age so they can start to pick up good habits,” Johnson said. “Everybody that spoke talked about how important education is … I always like to think positive. If we can reach one or two kids, then we’ve done our job.”

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