GREENVILLE - University of South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley told a large audience at the Redemption World Outreach Center on Tuesday night that basketball helped shape her life.
The featured speaker at the Potential Youth Foundation/Sid Wilson Foundation Coaches 4 Character "Young Ladies Night" spoke of her humble beginnings, growing up in the projects of North Philadelphia.
"To ask why the game has been so good to me almost seems ungrateful, so I don't ask out loud," said Staley, a three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner. "But I wonder about it all the time. When I think about it, I am an unlikely candidate.
"I don't have the build of a LeBron James or the grace of a Candace Parker. I don't have the flash of a Kobe Bryant or the charisma of a Mya Moore, and I have had more injuries than I can count. But basketball has made all my dreams come true."
The message seemed tailor-made for Hughes Academy for Science and Technology sixth-grader Kianya Philson, the winner of the Greenville News Coaches 4 Character Award.
Philson, who was voted to receive the award by her schoolmates, owns an A+ average and has set goals of attending Harvard and becoming a neurosurgeon.
"I heard about the award (a week ago) during the morning announcements," said Philson. "I was surprised. I knew people voted for me, but I didn't think it was that many. I figured either an eighth-grader or a seventh-grader would win, not me."
A winner of a Good Citizenship Award as a fourth-grader at Plain Elementary School, Philson previously earned a $1,000 scholarship for excellent academic achievement and quality character. She always has been an overachiever, according to her mother, Miranda Freeman.
"I was so excited for her," said Freeman. "I knew she has been working hard. It pays off to work hard."