May 28, 2009
Jarvis Gunter was a teenager the first time he experienced Kids With Character.
As a member of the Columbus High School boys basketball team, Gunter and his peers volunteered at the free camp and were charged with being a positive influence for the younger kids in the community.
"It was a great experience to show the kids what I learned and help them grow as a person and try to teach them the right way to play basketball and how to build character," Gunter said.
Nearly 10 years later, the lessons haven''t changed, and Gunter still enjoys imparting them.
These days, though, Gunter is in position as a member of the NBA -Development League''s Erie BayHawks to hold a camper''s attention just a little longer.
The former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff standout was in town Wednesday to volunteer as an instructor at the Kids With Character boys basketball camp at Columbus High.
Gunter, 24, said he last missed a Kids With Character camp when he was a student-athlete at the UAPB. He said he wouldn''t pass up an opportunity to be there for the children of Columbus.
"I just think about the kids and how no one was there in my life like I am shoving them how to be a good person and how to play basketball the right way," Gunter said. "I just want to help out and help in the community."
Kids With Character is an organization devoted to providing positive role models and experiences for the youth of Columbus and Lowndes County.
The organization encourages the youth of today to stay in school, to stay away from drugs, and to stay out of gangs.
Siggy Weeks and Debra Taylor volunteer for Kids With Character and said that the organization plays a crucial role in molding future citizens.
Sponsors for Kids With Character are: Columbus Housing Authority, Microtek Medical Incorporated, Columbus Exchange Club, Kwik Kopy Printing, Cable ONE Inc., and New Home Building Stores.
Weeks said the organization has talked with Columbus High football coach Bubba Davis in hopes of adding a football camp back to the series of events now being held.
A two-day camp for girls basketball players, led by Columbus High coach Yvonne Hairston, will be from 8 a.m. to noon today and Friday at Columbus High.
A cheerleading camp for ages 8-12, led by Columbus High coach Hattie Petty, will be from 8 a.m. to noon Monday and Tuesday at Columbus High.
A swimming camp, led by youth coach Chris Chain, will be from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the downtown Columbus YMCA. The enrollment of 50 campers for that event has already been filled.
Participation in the camps is free. Weeks said children are asked only to bring a canned good, which goes to help needy families in the area, and that spaces are still open for girls basketball and cheerleading.
"They have really good role models with the coaches, players, and their staff," Weeks said. "A lot of times just being a good role model to these children and showing that they care for these kids instills in them that I want to do that one day. Some of the boys in there and the girls in the girls basketball and in the cheerleading have been campers."
Columbus High boys basketball coach Sammy Smith, who was moving Wednesday between the stations of players in both gyms, said playing a role in Kids With Character is a "no-brainer." He said players on the boys basketball team are required to volunteer their time at the camp because it shows them that they can''t always take and take and that they have to give back to the community.
"Somebody had to help coach Smith," Smith said. "I am smart enough to know that. The Bible said, ''The more you give away, the more you receive.'' I know that whole-heartedly."
Smith also will take time to help Gunter work out when he is in Columbus. He said he is gratified to see a player one step away from the NBA come back to his high school and be a role model for the future Falcons.
Gunter, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward/center played four seasons at UAPB. He played three seasons at UAPB, averaging 6.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocked shots per game as a senior in 2007-08.
Last November, Gunter earned an opportunity to play with the BayHawks. He averaged 12.4 minutes per game and 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds and shot 58 percent from the field in 38 games.
"I think I did pretty good," Gunter said. "It took me a while to catch on, but I started to pick things up and started to play better toward the end. I think I finished strong."
The 2008-09 season was the first in which each NBA D-League team is affiliated with a maximum of two NBA teams.
The BayHawks are affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Twenty-nine of the 30 NBA teams featured players with NBA D-League experience during the 2007-08 season.
In the first three seasons of the NBA D-League''s assignment system with the NBA, NBA teams have assigned 76 players 130 times to play in the NBA D-League.
Gunter hopes he will be able to take the next step to the NBA. He hopes his involvement with Kids With Character provides lessons and motivates younger players as he continues to work toward realizing his goal of playing in the NBA.
"I think they listen to everything I say and it keeps their hopes alive that one day they can play in the NBA or play professional basketball," Gunter said. "I hope they see my character and that I do it the right way and there is no negativity around me."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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