Last year a group of organizers, including Sanford alum and current parent Nai-te Watson '89, University of Delaware alum Tyrone Perry, Rob Turner, and Rob Moore, established an organization called Delaware Middle School Basketball Explosion. They run an annual basketball event in February that brings the best Delaware middle school basketball players together for a one-day, three-game tournament. It is a time to showcase the upcoming talent and give a preview of what is on the horizon for high school basketball in the state.
This year, the group decided to add an educational component to the event, and they reached out to some of Delaware’s talented players and coaches who have enjoyed basketball success, one at the NBA level, who were willing to share their insights with those coming up through the ranks. Sanford’s Stan Waterman, who we have always called a legend, was tapped to not only participate in the evening’s panel discussion but to also act as the facilitator for the event.
More than 150 young people, most of them middle schoolers, and their families assembled at Wilmington’s Doubletree Hotel for the February 9 evening’s conversation, which was offered at no charge. Sanford Coach and current parent Marcus Thompson '85 and former standout and current member of the Board of Trustees Kenny Mitchell '93 joined the other panelists—AJ English, Gary Lumpkin, DJ Wootson, Tail Davis, and John Noonan—in responding to a variety of questions from the attendees. Additionally, they were able to guide parents as they consider how to find the right program and the right coach for their children.
“I put on my Steve Harvey hat and very much enjoyed facilitating the discussions. It was a wonderful evening, and I was amongst an impressive group of people—many of them whom I had coached against or played with. The evening was well done and overdue. It enabled us to get an important message out to students and their parents. We were able to stress that basketball is the means to help young people enjoy a good life. Academics must come first and always remain a priority.”
Waterman continued: “I was thrilled and honored to be a part of this evening. It more than exceeded everyone’s expectations. There are plans and hopes to use this as a springboard for a larger discussion that can reach even more people. I certainly hope that happens, and I would love to be a part of it.”
All panelists received a beautiful Legends Plaque, which joins Coach Waterman’s impressive collection of trophies and honors. He had his newly minted USA Championship Ring from his summer coaching success with him at the event. At the post-discussion reception, a young man asked if he could please try on the ring. He beamed as his photo was snapped and remarked to his mother that he had “touched his dream.” Waterman explained: “That is exactly what we had hoped to do. We want to inspire these young people to have dreams and then, with their families, find ways to make them into realities. We are looking at an under-served population with lots of athletic talent, as well as academic promise. We need to find ways to nurture both, and this event was a good start.”