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NEWS | Feb. 13, 2008

Youth Center sports director gives kids chance to play ball

By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Arredondo 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Taking his son to school one day in late October, Ron Keur, 437th Services Squadron Youth Center sports and fitness director, was not expecting to have a job offered to him.

The principal at the River Oaks Middle School noticed he was always in work-out gear t-shirts, work-out pants and sneakers. She thought he could help her bring a basketball team together for the new school.

There was very little time for Mr. Keur to get a team ready for a season in regards to equipment and funding. There were practices he had to organize (which were held in the school cafeteria), and game-day shirts to purchase (which were donated by a local business). He also had only a week to get the team together ... the season started the first week in November.

Though it was a bumpy start in getting the team together and ready for a season, Mr. Keur was able to take the team to the South Carolina Boys Basketball Lower State Championship. However, his association with some of the team members would not end when the season finished.

In the process of forming the 15 member team, he came to meet five young men who not only helped take the school to a state championship, but also become a part of the Charleston AFB Mavericks basketball team, 13- 14-year-old league.

"This was the perfect marriage," said Mr. Keur. "Charleston AFB was looking for players and these boys wanted to play."

These five boys wanted to continue to play basketball, so Mr. Keur realized, this would be a life enhancing opportunity for these players because, according to Mr. Keur they came from "conditions many are unaware of or choose to ignore."

"They were looking for mentors, they needed the guidance that our sports program provided."

When he first recruited these five young men -- Joey Marlowe, Julius Bowles, Lorimar Bowers, Calvin Lawrence and Marcus Lloyd -- they were not doing well in school and getting in trouble.

"During the beginning of the season, they were not used to me watching them," he said. But two of Mr. Keur's rules for playing on his team were his players couldn't be on the in-school suspension or the out-of-school suspension list and they also had to maintain their grades.

As time went on, the boys from River Oaks started to improve to a point where one of the boys, Joey Marlowe, was recognized in "Who's Who in Middle School."

"When they see me in the morning now, they greet me with a firm handshake and [direct] eye contact," said Mr. Keur.

The improvement has been noticed by the other coaches also.

Since he first started coaching the Mavericks, Airman 1st Class Alfonse Rogers, 15th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, along with Senior Airman Anthony Johnson, 15 AS, and Capt. Arnold Mosley, 437th Mission Support Squadron, has seen the importance of coaching these young men.

"For us, we are showing them a positive role the military plays," Airman Rogers said. "We help them with homework and pick them up for practices and games. Their parents always thank us for doing this, because they know [their sons] could be somewhere else, doing other things."

The boys also appreciate the opportunity of continuing to play a game they love.

Lorimar Bower, 14, was the one who approached Mr. Keur about a way to continue playing.

"I enjoy playing basketball because it is something to do and it helps keep me healthy," he said.

Travis Lawrence, 14, explains his wanting to stay on a team as a way to help him stay focused on his grades.

Joey Marlowe, 14, said he appreciates the way Mr. Keur and the Mavericks' coaching team has taken the time to be their coaches.

"Both Alfonso and Mr. Keur are good coaches. They get out there with the team and explain plays to us," he said.

Though Mr. Keur realizes the role he and the other coaches are playing in these five young men's lives, it was highlighted by a letter he received after the River Oaks Middle School basketball team went to the championship. The letter, from the Ft. Dorchester High School Men's Varsity Basketball coach, was written by a person who had won over
500 high school and college level basketball games.

With a tear of accomplishment rolling down his face, Mr. Keur recited the first two lines of the e-mail from Gregg Gierke, basketball coach at Ft. Dorchester High School.

"First, I need to say congratulations on a great season. To take a team that had never played a game - ever - and to get to the championship game is really a great accomplishment!"

"I've been blessed to have been a part of their lives," Mr. Keur said. "They were in control of their destiny; they just let me be a part of it."