While standing in front of a group of Camden Academy Charter High School Juniors and Seniors Tuesday evening, former NBA player Shane Battier insisted that one word had brought them all to the Sixers’ practice facility located less than a half-mile from their campus.
“I was around your age when I was around people who finally said, ‘Yes,'” Battier said. “That simple word changed my world, changed my life. … You are ‘yes’ people. You are people that we believe in.”
Those students are part of Battier’s Take Charge Foundation, which has partnered with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, his wife Ellen and Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment CEO Tad Brown to expand its “GUIDE” program to the school.
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The Collaboration is an example of Morey’s desire to make an in-person, philanthropic impact in the area, which was hampered by the Pandemic in the months since he first joined the Sixers in 2020. It’s an example of a maintained relationship with a former player , which does not always jibe with Morey’s reputation as an analytics-driven and trade-happy chief basketball decision-maker. And it highlights Battier’s ties to Philly, as he was teammates (and roommates) with Sixers general manager Elton Brand at Duke. Plus, Battier’s wife, Heidi, is a Villanova alumnae.
“We care about the communities that we live and work in,” Battier told The Inquirer. “So if we don’t use our platform to help and to make our communities better, then we’re wasting a prime opportunity. The Moreys get it, and that’s why we love partnering with them.”
“GUIDE,” which stands for Giving Underserved Individuals Direction in Education, launched in 2016 at Miami Central High School near where Battier now resides. Its mission is to “support [students] in any manner to improve their chances of going to college,” Battier said, including providing resources to assist in applying for schools and scholarships and to prepare to take the SAT and ACT. Mentors will also be on-site at Camden Academy every week.
“Sometimes all young people need to do is be around people who have done it,” Battier said. “You just never know where the inspiration will lead. This is not just a Scholarship program. This is not just a college prep program. It’s really a life prep program.”
Battier played for the Houston Rockets, where Morey previously led the front office, from 2006-11. Morey first learned of Battier’s Take Charge Foundation at a karaoke fundraising event held in Houston. As he and Ellen recently began discussing how to get involved in the Philly/Camden community “in a more significant way versus just writing checks,” they realized Battier’s organization was an ideal fit.
“It all sort of came together,” Morey said. “Little did we know that [the Battiers] were also looking to expand at the same time — and in this area.”
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While at the Sixers’ facility Tuesday, the students, their families and school staff toured the locker room, training room and practice court. Coach Doc Rivers emerged from his office for an impromptu visit, challenging them to “finish the race” by remaining persistent even during times of success. Morey, who had already met with several students during the program’s selection process, also encouraged them to keep “showing up” to build Habits and commitment. Battier then shared a bit of his background while growing up in Detroit, where his family “always had enough, but never a lot” and people dismissed his big dreams to play college basketball and in the NBA.
“All y’all come from an area where you hear a lot of ‘nos,’ right?” Battier said. “ … Look out that window right there. That’s our neighborhood, right? We’re gonna change this neighborhood, right? This is where it starts, in this room, with these people — young people.”
Battier said the GUIDE program in Miami recently produced its first candidate for a doctorate degree. Other alumni are now working as attorneys or in the medical field. And he trusts that similar success stories will emerge from the group he met on Tuesday.
“They were all just like the kids at Camden Academy, and that’s the best part,” Battier said. “They have such amazing potential that we are lucky to be part of their journey. If you spend a day with our cohort here, you’ll want to spend a lot of time with them, because they’re going places.”