Basketball: Lessons learned by SMA team

Andre Crockett has made it his mission to teach at-risk young males life skills by giving them life experiences. He's done it the last five years in Rochester through his Sports Mentorship Academy (SMA).

Members of the SMA sixth and seventh-grade basketball team recently took a trip to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Members are (from left) Forrest Wolf, Jayce Dostal, Tyshawn Lyons, Andre Crockett Jr. and Jordan See-Stead.

Andre Crockett has made it his mission to teach at-risk young males life skills by giving them life experiences. He's done it the past five years in Rochester through his Sports Mentorship Academy (SMA).

A native of inner-city Baltimore, Crockett designed SMA for fifth- through eighth-grade boys. Basketball has been at the center of much of their activity, with the 40-year-old Crockett, also a pastor and an Olmsted County social worker, acting as coach.

But churning out basketball players isn't the primary goal for the one-time high school hoops star in Baltimore and later at Rochester Community and Technical College.

Education is Crockett's No. 1 focus with the 40 or so middle school kids who go through his SMA program every year. He organizes lengthy study halls and college visits for them. They meet at RCTC throughout the school year, getting academic support from Crockett as well as RCTC students.

"Academics and athletics go together, because sports teaches you how to work under pressure, and gives you that grit that you need in life," Crockett said. "But I tell them all the time, academics will take you further than athletics. Our kids respond to that. If this was just about basketball, I wouldn't do it."


For Crockett, sports are really a means to an end.

He seeks to help young people — mostly African-Americans in this case — develop into upstanding and productive young men. Too often he sees African-Americans without proper male role models. His mission has been to be that African-American role model for them, as wells as to introduce them to many more.

East Coast trip

Crockett and SMA program director James Robertson went on the road to make all of that happen beginning in late June. The men took five members of their Rochester sixth and seventh grade traveling SMA basketball team and drove them to Crockett's home city of Baltimore. From there it was on to Washington, D.C, then back to Baltimore, before finally winding up in Hampton, Va., to take part in a prestigious basketball camp.

The boys who joined them were Crockett's son, Andre Jr., Forrest Wolf, Jayce Dostal, Tyshawn Lyons and Jordan Se-Stead.

Se-Stead, a 12-year-old who attends Willow Creek, said it was his mission out East to improve his basketball game. Specifically he wanted to work on his "floater," a layup taken with the ball being softly shot-putted into the air off the palm of your hand.

"At the camp, they taught me to keep my elbow in on my floater, and let the ball come off the palm of my hand, not my finger tips," Se-Stead said. "I wanted to get better out there. And to get good, you have to work. Ability is earned, not given."

That last bit of wisdom is something Crockett stresses all the time, and was coined by NBA superstar LeBron James.


Life lessons

Crockett said he learned to earn his way — often times the hard way — while growing up in the gritty streets of Baltimore. The week-long trip East was about introducing the SMA five-some to his roots, and to introduce them to some of the mostly African-American models who helped shape him.

There was a meeting with Crockett's old AAU basketball coach, Kevin McClain, now an assistant coach at Morgan State University in Baltimore. The Rochester kids then toured the school and met a number of the Morgan State basketball players.

"The players talked to the kids about what it takes to be a good student-athlete," Crockett said.

Later there was a subway ride to Washington, D.C., where Crockett had the group stop at the Martin Luther King Memorial. There was also a trip to Lincoln Memorial, as Crockett reflected with the boys how crucial both men were to paving the way for African-Americans.

Finally, there was the John Lucas Basketball Camp in Hampton, Va. The camp was run by John Lucas Jr., the son of the former NBA star. There, the boys competed with some of the top 11- and 12-year-olds in the country. But more importantly to Crockett was all the time spent by Lucas Jr. and other guests talking about life lessons.

It's what this trip was all about.

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