By Cassie Logan | UTAMavs.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- One of the benefits of being a collegiate student-athlete is having a larger platform to impact lives through sports.
This week, the men's and women's basketball teams spent their time hosting a basketball clinic in association with Special Olympics Texas of Greater Fort Worth, and speaking with ESL students at L.D. Bell High School.
Coming off of two of their best seasons in program history, the Mavericks are staying humble and using the experience as a reminder that there’s more to life than what happens on the court.
“There's bigger picture to life than just basketball,” men’s head coach Scott Cross said. “Our basketball players think a bad game is tough, but helping others makes them appreciate what they have here.
“It makes them more well-rounded people. Every single one of our players were engrossed in what they were doing. They were really interested in connecting with all the campers and I couldn’t have been more pleased.”
On Tuesday, the men’s and women’s players led a clinic for special needs kids and interacted with them through basketball drills and games. Freshman DJ Bryant said it was humbling in that it made him reflect on his own life and value the little things taken for granted every day.
Junior Link Kabadyundi even reached out to his friends and family about the camp, his favorite part seeing smiles on the kids’ faces whether they made a basket or not.
It was the first community outreach event for the Mavs this week, who made a stop at L.D. Bell on Thursday to lead a discussion with ESL students. Kadabyundi, Jorge Bilbao and Erkam Kiris, all natives of other countries, were eager to speak as the trio shares a bond with those who have struggled to learn English.
The visit stemmed from a meeting between Kabadyundi and Jinni Walker, formerly Touchstone, who played volleyball for UTA from 1995-98 and currently teaches at Bell. Walker met the Maverick and thought he would be a great example of someone who’s overcome a similar language barrier.
A product of Montreal, Canada, Kabadyundi has been enrolled in speech classes to better his English, and as someone who loves being involved in the community, he thought the meeting would allow students to learn from his own challenges coming into the US.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to share with kids. My goal is to motivate them to keep going and keep learning,” Kabadyundi said. “It’s hard to adapt, but key in the society we live in. We have common grounds in that we speak a different language.”
Cross said this week spoke volumes to their characters as student-athletes. Their time is valuable with the divide between class, study hall and workouts, even in the offseason, but the teams were quick to jump at the chance to inspire and make an impact.
“Coach Cross and the rest of the staff do a great job of preaching that it’s a lot bigger than basketball,” Bryant said. “All the things we do off the court and in the community are going to help us in life.”
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