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August 15, 2008, Oakland, CA:
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Leon Powe of the NBA World Champion Boston Celtics didn’t attend his first basketball camp until he was 15 or 16 years old. Before that, there was nothing available to the former Oakland Tech High and Cal star. “I couldn’t go anyway … I didn’t have any money,” Powe said. “That would have been huge for me.”
Money won’t be an issue for youngsters on August 22-23, 2008, when Powe, about to begin his third season with the Boston Celtics, hosts the “Powe Folks” Basketball Camp. Open to boys and girls ages 7 through 18, the camp will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Merritt College, Mens Gym, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland, CA 94619 · (510) 637-8389. All skill levels are welcome. Basketball coaches will be on hand for skills and drills. Participants should bring their lunch. All youngsters who attend the camp will receive a free T-shirt. Powe also plans to have other speakers on hand for the camp, including the Director of Admissions at Cal Berkeley, teachers, a Hip Hop artist, a lawyer and a banker. The registration fee is $25(includes both days), begins at 7:30 am Friday morning and the form is attached. All proceeds will be go to the “Powe Folks” Camp.
“Basically he just wants to give back,” said Bernard Ward, Powe’s mentor and friend. “He always said if he made it, he wanted to do whatever he can for kids. He knows a lot of kids can’t afford it.”
Leon Powe was drafted in the second round (No. 49 overall) by the Nuggets, instantly traded to the Celtics is on the verge of signing a multi-year, multi-million dollar guaranteed contract, but Powe is using his NBA money to benefit the community.
In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Leon Powe, a second-year, second-round draft pick from Oakland out of Cal, was the Celtics hero. Years earlier, he was his family’s hero, as he helped keep his siblings together while they bounced between 26 different homeless shelters in a year during a patch when his mother couldn’t afford shelter. It’s one of the most touching sports stories in ages, and his emergence as a playoff force only highlights it.
he Bay Area’s OWN Leon Powe!!!
ABC/ESPN produced a short biography on how Leon overcame tremendous adversity to make it on one of the NBA’s most elite franchises, the Boston Celtics. The night this aired, Leon Powe wowed the international television crowd when he scored 21 points off the bench in less than 15 minutes to spark the Boston Celtics to a 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals. Paul Pierce, whose effectiveness was questionable before the game, led the Celtics with 28 points.
The Lakers trailed by 24 with less than 8 minutes to go, but pulled to 104-102 on two free throws by Bryant with 38.4 seconds left. But Pierce made two free throws, then blocked a jumper by Sasha Vujacic, and James Posey made two free throws with 12.6 seconds left to ice it for Boston.
Kobe Bryant scored scored 13 of his 30 points in the last 7:40 as the Lakers erased all but two points of a 24-point deficit before losing to the Boston Celtics 108-102 in Game 2 of the NBA finals.
He says that Boston’s three pointers in transition are what hurt the Lakers. He also said that it would have helped if his team got to take some foul shots, but credited Leon Powe for his amazing game off the bench. The Celtics were 27-38 from the free throw line, compared to the Lakers who were 10-10. Leon Powe was 9-13 from the line. (Click here to view Leon’s highlights of game)
Powe, who played a total of 68 seconds during one stretch of 13 games during the season, scored six points to close a 15-2 run ending the third quarter. At one point in the fourth quarter, Boston fans discarded the familiar chants of “beat L.A.” for cries of “Le-on Powe!” (Click here to view Leon’s ABC/ESPN interview)
The Celtics went on to win the NBA Championship in 6 games and Celtic superstars Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, say that their happiness is due in large part to the play of Oakland’s own, Leon Powe!
Fatherless at 2, homeless at 7, eventually into the foster system. His mother, Connie Landry, died when he was a high school junior. He’s had two major knee reconstructions. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m even supposed to be here,” Powe says. “But my mother had that will to survive. I think that’s what I have in me.” He recently flew to Colorado to personally thank Dr. Richard Steadman for doing such a great job rebuilding his knee.
“You just got to keep working hard, there ain’t nothing else about it,” Powe says. “It ain’t ca
rs, it ain’t money, it ain’t none of that. This is a dream come true, you get to play in the NBA, you want to be the best player you can be. I know I do.”
The Celtics are encouraged by what they’ve seen as coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s a physical-type player. He can rebound well. I was just impressed with his energy overall and the Celtics have a need for a physical inside presence. “It’s amazing the kind of attitude he has,” Rivers said, alluding to the challenges Powe overcame while growing up. “He’s well-mannered and very polite. I also like he can leave that at the door. When he competes he can take it to another level. “He can keep that going, he should have a nice NBA career.”
Powe and Ward are founding an agency to place foster children and group-home children in caring homes and top-flight schools.
He and his younger brother, Tim, spent close to a dozen years shifting between shelters, drug infested tenements, motel rooms and cramped apartments while their mother Connie Landry tried to keep the family afloat by hustling at local flea markets in Oakland. She battled drugs, and eventually, all but one of her seven children became wards of the county.
He has lived the worst kind of nightmare. Powe did not have much support as a kid, much less a real childhood. “It was kind of a forced maturity,” Cal coach Ben Braun says. “He didn’t have a lot of time to sort things out. He had to survive and advance.”
When Powe was 2 and Tim was just a newborn, their father walked out on the family. Five years later, Powe’s own nightmare began.
He was at school, his mother was at work and his grandmother was baby sitting at the family’s three-bedroom North Oakland duplex when Tim, then 5, came across a box of matches and accidentally set the house on fire. Powe was driven home from school by his uncle when he saw flames, fire trucks and his mother crying in the street.
“I was just hoping nobody in my family was hurt because I knew my grandma, she couldn’t move that fast,” he says. “Then, I started to get mad, thinking about all my stuff. I had my own computer. There was nothing left. It was the beginning of a long nightmare.”
The home was reduced to cinders and the family became nomads, living briefly with Landry’s mother and later with an aunt, before embarking on an odyssey that included as many as 30 temporary stops at some of the worst housing in the Bay area. “The worst part was the fact we were always moving,” Powe says. “I never really got to stay at a place I wanted to stay at. But life goes in different ways sometimes.”
Connie Landry was the face of desperation. “She had to hold everything down,” Powe says. “She didn’t have a second parent in the house, so she almost had to play both the mother and the father, which was difficult because of the money problems she was going through.”
As the oldest son, he missed almost an entire school year in fifth grade because he had to babysit the children while his mother worked. “I learned a lot about changing diapers and warming bottles,” he says. He had to repeat the grade.
The lack of parental supervision forced Powe to grow up fast. “I had to watch the kids until she got back,” he says. “I got to hang out at nighttime, when it was 12 and 1 o’clock, which was all bad,” he says. “You know there’s nothing good going on on the streets at that time of night.”
In 1998, Powe and his brother Tim were taken from his mother and placed in foster care. “I didn’t care about school, sitting in class, taking notes, doing homework,” said Powe. “I didn’t think I was going to college. I heard you have to have all these A’s and B’s. And I said, ‘I’m not doing it.'”
But he did care about basketball. “It didn’t hit me until my grades came out in 9th grade,” he says. “I had messed up grades. I was ineligible for the first four games. Coach told me I couldn’t suit up. That hurt me, touched me.
“I was like, ‘If I had the grades, I’d have been out here playing. Let me try something to get this report card straight.’ I started going to class, focusing on my classes. My GPA rose from a 1.8 to a 2.3 and I didn’t even put all my effort into it. I kept building on that.”
Powe had a 3.2 GPA his senior year. He took the SATs four times to obtain the necessary scores for admission. But there was a sadness even to his success. He remained close to his mother, although the family had been torn apart. “It was frustrating,” he says. “Normal kid, you want to be home with moms and moms ain’t there.” Then, just four days before Powe was scheduled to play in the California state championship game his junior year in high school, his mother died at 41 from heart disease. Powe played in the game, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, but his team lost. “That was all bad. I thought about quitting,” he says. “My dream was always to buy my mother a new house and she was gone.” Powe got through his mother’s death, but there were other obstacles. That spring, while playing in an AAU tournament in Houston, Powe tore the ACL in his left knee while going for a dunk.
He came back to play his senior year at Tech and lead his team to the state finals again, almost single-handedly beating powerful Westchester. But he never had any formal rehab on his knee and when he got to Cal, he was put on a grueling training program. Powe made an immediate impact and was named Pac-10 Rookie of the Year despite playing with the torn ACL. He was in such pain, the doctors determined that he needed an operation on the knee. He had a bone graft done in April of 2004 and had reconstructive knee surgery the following fall.
Ward says he and Powe are working on a plan to eventually collect all of Leon’s brothers and sisters, five of whom are in foster care, under one roof. “In my family, we don’t give up, especially when it gets tough,” Powe says. “If you give up, where you gonna go? And I wanted to go to the top.” Powe says he wants to be the family and community role model he didn’t have as a kid. He says he eventually will earn his degree from Cal.
“My mom told me to finish,” Powe says. “I gotta carry that out.”
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