The last couple of days have been a whirlwind. I was excited to be asked to come to the U S Virgin Islands by Rashidi Clenance and Tim Duncan to be part of the 2017 Sunstroke Classic. I was not disappointed as I penned yesterday in my recaps of the event, as there were several very talented young people on display, chasing their basketball dreams.
I met some wonderful basketball folks on my trip but it was my great honor to be asked by the Commissioner of Education's Office for the U. S. Virgin Islands to come to St. Thomas. from neighboring St. Croix where I evaluated the Sunstroke Classic. I did so and tonight had the blessing of meeting with two amazing ladies; Commissioner of Education Dr. Sharon McCollum (to my left) and her Assistant, Ms Bunny Tomeau.
To have such an accomplished educator as Dr McCollum (who was also a Fulbright Scholar) be interested in my thoughts of how to improve the marriage of athletics & academics to best benefit Virgin Islanders was indeed humbling.
Nobody has all the answers but we had such an enjoyable dinner where we bounced around a number of ideas. She was kind enough to let me tell my basketball story and how the game and academics has opened up so many doors for me, my son Chip Ivany & daughter in law, Judy Jones. And of course, she got to hear me brag about my grandchildren.
There are no magical answers and I can only imagine the political land mines that the Commissioner encounters as she tackles the daily grind and concerns regarding helping the youth of the U S Virgin Islands obtain a quality education. (For those not familiar, the U.S. Virgin Islands is a "Territory" and not a State.)
A unique concern that the Virgin Islands has (that's also shared by Puerto Rico and Hawaii) are the relative isolation faced from being an island and not part of the mainland. Student-athletes face additional challenges in that they have much more difficulty in obtaining recognition because college coaches do not necessarily have the budget to come see them. Hand in hand with that, the costs to travel to events where recognition can be earned is also significantly higher for island kids and their families.
I'm honored that Commissioner McCollum feels that perhaps I can be part of that solution to getting the word out on some of these talented players. There are currently many good people here assisting them already such as Ronnie Richards (FIBA), writer David Edole, high school coaches and club coaches.
I don't have all the answers, but as a village we can all help pool our contacts and resources. An education is critical to success in today's competitive world. To be able to receive one and have the costs mitigated through an athletic scholarship is a thing of beauty, and such a financial relief to a family.
I thank Dr. McCollum and Ms Tomeau for actively listening to my thoughts this evening and I pledge to make myself available for them and the youth of the USVI any time they call in the future.
Good bye for now St. Thomas and St. Croix, it has been my privilege to come and interact with your children.