Pro players find way to give back

CAMBRIDGE — There are always guys playing ball at the Glasgow court.

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Brothers Preston Keene, at center in back, and Tabari Perry, at right, have started a free basketball clinic for local youth. The group practices at the Glasgow Street court Monday through Fridays, from 3-5 p.m. The men’s father, Richard Perry, at left, joined them on Aug. 28.

But not quite like this.

Two lines of young boys, with two men giving instructions. The kids take the ball, and begin going through drills, maneuvering around cones, pivoting and passing.

And doing all of it with focus, in quite an organized manner.

Anyone who deals with elementary school-aged boys knows they can be pretty rowdy. But these guys were concentrating, hard at work, even in the hot summer afternoon.

They were giving that effort and respect to brothers Tabari Perry and Preston Keene. Both Cambridge-South Dorchester High School graduates in the Class of 2008, the men went on to professional basketball careers and have now found a way to give back to their hometown.

After graduating high school, Mr. Perry and Mr. Keene went to Cecil College in North East, where they continued playing basketball. They were then offered places at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Their skills caught the eyes of recruiters after they finished college. “I got picked up by a pro street ball team,” Mr. Keene said.

Mr. Perry took his abilities overseas, to Cyprus, Turkey and Germany, countries in which basketball has strong followings. In Germany with the Wiha Panthers, Mr. Perry won a European Cup Championship.

Returning to the U.S., he played for the Kansas City Tornadoes of The Basketball League.

“The purpose of the league is to provide opportunities for community involvement, particularly schools from the elementary to high school levels,” a statement from the league says. “Programs include players reading to younger children, hosting basketball camps for teens, and speaking in school-wide assemblies about substance abuse and staying in school.”

Sound familiar? The brothers have taken the spirit of that message to heart.

“I thought to myself, ‘I have to find a way to give my skills back to the youth,’” Mr. Keene said after practice on Friday.

That combination of sports skill and community involvement brought them to the Glasgow court this summer, after a modest start. “We started working out our little nephew,” Mr. Keene said.

They opened it up to others, and had four boys at their first public practice. On a day last week, the number had increased to 13, simply through word of mouth, as the young ballers told their friends about it.

While the youngsters work on specific skills, they learn other lessons from their coaches.

Mr. Perry said he encourages the boys to go to college, and Mr. Keene added that he also tells them to get an education in case their basketball plans don’t develop into careers.

“Listen,” Mr. Keene said is one simple piece of advice he gives them. “It’s not all about basketball.”

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