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Royal Ivey did not speak much Saturday, the third and final day of his annual youth event in Hollis, but he said a lot.
While the reticent guard for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers was short on grand speeches, his love for his neighborhood was expressed in the smile on his face as he danced with an excited group of youngsters, with the tear that rolled down his cheek when he realized the appreciation he had for his community was mutual.
For the past five years, Ivey has returned to Hollis to host a basketball clinic where the youngsters learn there is more to the game than the game itself.
“I feel obligated,” he said in the brief moment that TimesLedger Newspapers could pull him away from his extended family at the IS 192 playground, at 109-89 204th St. “This is where I’m from. It’s given so much to me over my lifetime. This is how I give back.”
Ivey grew up in Hollis, and while he readily admits he was never the most talented basketball player when he was younger, those who have known him since his youth said his greatest attribute has always been his character.
“To be honest, he wasn’t the best player,” said Shavon Glover, who coached the young Ivey at the Children’s Aid Society. “But he knew about sportsmanship and teamwork. He worked hard. He’s like a living lesson.”
As it turned out, Ivey did possess the talent to play with the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA Final 4, to get drafted to the pros and to play with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals this year.
But Ivey, 31, said the game taught him much more, and that was the message he wanted to teach the youngsters.
That is why his annual clinic, in addition to teaching basketball skills, also has empowering themes. This year he invited representatives from TD Bank to teach the youth about financial literacy.
He told them the NBA has plenty of opportunities for those who cannot dunk or shoot a free throw, that they could aim to work in the front office or in sports medicine as long as they believed in themselves.
Maybe that is why instead of leading up to a basketball game, the clinic’s highlight was a dance-off.
Maybe 13-year-old Jaida will never play in the WNBA, and maybe she will. Maybe every time she rides the bike she won during Sunday’s dance competition she will remember that someone who had had so much success cared enough to remind her there is something she succeeds at.
And Ivey, too, was reminded that no matter which NBA city he calls home, Hollis will never forget him.
The man who towered over most on the playground was moved to tears when he was presented with an airbrushed likeness of himself created by neighborhood artist Art1, who also created the nearby mural of Jam Master Jay.
Cheryl Steadman said her two children had plenty of positive influences, such as Hollis Court Tenants Association President Marilyn Mays, who is known as a steward of the IS 192 playground.
“All the kids know her,” she said. “She’s someone they can look up to.”
Hollis, Steadman said, is not lacking for role models.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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