Durham Sports Club recognizes high school athletes at annual banquet

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 12:43 AM

Folks don't come much cooler than N.C. Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton, but he said he was uncharacteristically nervous before giving the keynote address Wednesday during the Durham Sports Club Scholar-Athlete Awards Night at Croasdaile Country Club.


Moton said he was uneasy because his biography that was printed in the program made it sound like he was responsible for turning LeBron James into the player that he is. The coach said he's good, but not that good.


And Moton said the honorees' incredibly high grade-point averages were out of this world. He offered them jobs tutoring his NCCU basketball players.


That would be tough for Asher Yueh to pull off at Emory University in Atlanta. That's where he'll apply the $1,000 Harold Strawbridge Scholarship the sports club awarded him.


Yueh ran cross-country, swam and played baseball at Durham School of the Arts.


Millicent Blivin will use the $1,000 Mildred Barnes Scholarship at N.C. State. She played soccer and basketball at Jordan.


Dana Williams, who played volleyball, basketball and soccer at Durham Academy, earned a $500 scholarship that she will use at Bowdoin College in Maine.


The club awarded a $500 scholarship to William Morganlander, who played soccer and lacrosse at Jordan. He's going to Notre Dame.


The scholarship winners, along with nominees from other public and private high schools in Durham, each earned $150 for the athletics departments at what either already are or soon will be their alma maters.


The directors of athletics at the schools nominated the student-athletes.


Former N.C. School of Science and Mathematics runner Anne Kelley this past year began her freshman year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology thinking her time as a student-athlete had crossed the finish line.


Kelley said she also played field hockey at East Chapel Hill High School.


“I was a good athlete, but I wasn't a star,” Kelley said.


Yet she arrived at MIT itching to compete and sweat among teammates.


“I realized that old habits die hard, and I wanted to play sports,” Kelley said.


The cross-country and field-hockey coaches at MIT got across the point to Kelley that there was no room for her on their teams for her, but a student convinced her to row for the crew squad.


“I got to be a Division-I, varsity athlete,” Kelley said.


Former NCSSM tennis player Jin Kang said his transition from high school to college at North Carolina was tough without sports. Something was missing, like going to practice after classes, he said.


Kang told the students at the banquet not to take for granted that sports gave them their best friends and fit bodies. It will be imperative for them to find something to fill the void if they don't play sports in college, Kang said.


Both Kelley and Kang were recipients of 2013 scholar-athlete awards.


Moton, who said he has a book chronicling his life coming out in September, shared some of those experiences with the high school students.


“I was the little boy in 'Soul Food,' and when his grandmother died, the whole family fell apart,” said Moton, referencing the 1997 movie.


Moton said his grandmother left instructions for divvying up her possessions, but some of her children didn't obey her wishes. He said that fractured the family and scarred him, but his grandmother's lessons left a even greater impression on him.


“I'm not that great of a coach,” Moton said.


Well, the guy last season did direct NCCU to the NCAA Tournament for the first time.


“I had a grandmother that prayed for me,” Moton explained.


Moton told the students about his rough upbringing around the mean streets that made up the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston. He recalled how hanging out with the wrong crowd almost had him doing time for murder. Moton said the truth came out and police let him off the hook, but that incident scared him straight.


“When you go out here, it's about life and how you respond to adversity,” Moton said.


Adversity introduces a person to himself, Moton continued.


“I met myself when I was 3 years old,” Moton said.


Moton said that was when his daddy went to get snacks for the family and never came back.


That also left a scar on him, but he used it to get better, not bitter. He channeled it to zero in on the practical wisdom of his grandmother and her insight that made him understand that the same discipline required to make up a bed every day, to wash the daily dishes and to keep the trash emptied is the same mettle required to make it in life.


One last thing, Moton offered: Grandmama said it's wise to slide your shoes way back under the bed before going to sleep. That way, you wake up needing to hit your knees in order to retrieve the shows, a perfect opportunity to have a little talk with Jesus, the coach said.


Herald-Sun sports writer John McCann on Twitter is @johntmccann. Email him at jmccann@heraldsun.com.


2014 Durham Sports Club Scholarship Foundation Nominees

Cresset Christian Academy — Maggie Addison.

Durham Academy — Dana Williams and Spencer Hallyburton.

Durham School of the Arts — Mia Kaplan and Asher Yueh.

Hillside High School — Sydney Brown and Timothy Mangum.

Jordan High School — Millicent Blivin and William Morganlander.

N.C. School of Science and Mathematics — McKenna Reed and Jacob Vosburgh.

Northern High School — Bianca Decatur and Ricky Council II.

Riverside High School — Hannah Glisson and Cameron McNeill.

Southern School of Energy and Sustainability — Diamond Nowell and Amari Hamilton.

Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill — Emily Sarratt and Xavier Idriss.