Oct. 29, 2012
WASHINGTON - For nearly 30 minutes, the hands kept raising and questions came from each side of the room. Why do you wear your number? Are you on television? How tall are you? What position do you play? What was it like to go to China? Do you get interviewed? Are you the Big Three?
No, they may not be the Big Three, but for this afternoon early in the college school year, three Georgetown University sophomore men's basketball players - Mikael Hopkins (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha), Otto Porter (Sikeston, Mo./Scott County Central) and Jabril Trawick (Philadelphia, Pa./Abington Friends) - were just that for a group of kids from the Youth Leadership Foundation in Southeast D.C.
The three Hoyas traveled to the St. Thomas More Catholic School in Southeast to speak to nearly 100 youths at the camp, which aims to teach students the basic human and Christian virtues that will help to guide them on a "stable moral path" through academics, character formation, personal mentoring and parental involvement.
The Hoyas arrived at the school at 10 a.m. and each player spoke for five to 10 minutes about personal experiences before it was opened up for questions from the campers. , Hopkins, a 6-9 center, grew up in the DMV and played sports with many of his friends growing up. "Most of my friends didn't have the same goals I had," Hopkins said. "Being an athlete, you have to interact with a lot of people and have to have good character. You can be serious on the court, but you have to be able to speak and interact with people."
While many high school kids will look to move away from home for college, Hopkins chose Georgetown so he could be close to home, especially his younger sister. He knew the transition would be challenging, but knowing that he was close to home would make it that much easier.
"My freshman year was hard," Hopkins said. "You have to do a lot of work. Most people think that athletes probably have it easy, but you have to learn how to balance everything. And if you don't, there are consequences."
Like Hopkins, Trawick had dreams of playing in the NBA. He still has them, but he knew that if he wanted to reach that goal, he would need to succeed in school as well.
"Whatever sport was going on in my community, I was engaged in," Trawick said. "There was a hoop right next door to my house, so basketball was always available to me as a child. I never really thought about playing in college. My goal was the NBA, but when I got to high school, I knew I needed to focus.
"My family was very focused on education and that's a big reason I'm at Georgetown. I know that if I don't get the chance the play professionally, I'm going to get a great education."
Trawick said that while many of the kids would want to simply focus on becoming a better basketball player, they have to remember to focus on other things.
"You have to be able to handle the work," he said. "There are a bunch of guys who play basketball, but if you can't keep your grades together, you're not going to get in to school. I had to learn how to become a good basketball player and a good student."
Having good influences can help too. As Trawick told the kids of his parents keeping after him with school work while he was growing up in Philadelphia, he knows now that it was better for him.
"Your parents might be on you about doing your homework and doing what you have to do," he said. "But that's really important. You're all young and you might be thinking homework and chores, and it might sound cliché, but you have to do what the people who are looking out for you tell you to do because they really have your best interests in mind."
Porter spoke to the kids of the challenges he faced when he came to Georgetown, moving from a small town in Missouri.
"Unlike these two," Porter said pointing to Hopkins and Trawick, "I'm from nowhere close to here. I'm from a small town that has a population of 900 at most. It was different for me growing up in a small town because most people couldn't find it on a map. But playing basketball and being from a strong community, I am hopefully making opportunities for kids like me."
Like his teammates, Porter said the influences of his family were a big role in his growing up.
"You've got to listen to your parents because they know what's best for you,' he said. "They've been down that road. My whole family, from my mom's side and my dad's side, we all went to the same school. We all played basketball too. But it was being around my family and having everyone talking about hard work that taught me things about character and sportsmanship."
Porter has used basketball as a way to grow and taken the opportunities he's had through his sport to reach other goals, like going to college.
"It was all about wanting to be somebody and doing something for your family," he said. "The only way I could get out of my small town was to be a good student and being a good basketball player. When I first came to college, it was a tough transition, but going through a year of college, it opened up my eyes up to how many opportunities I could have."