Saturday, July 31, 1999

Grant upholds nice-guy image

Ex-XU star always giving to community

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Brian Grant, a former Xavier star now with the Portland Trail Blazers, enjoys working with children at his basketball clinic in his hometown of Georgetown, Ohio.
(Gary Landers photo)
        GEORGETOWN, Ohio — Smack in the middle of the NBA playoffs, Portland Trail Blazers forward and former Xavier star Brian Grant was in demand.

        He was featured in Sports Illustrated, the Sporting News andthe Chicago Tribune. NBC, ESPN and Fox Sports did segments on him. Grant was a guest on Jim Rome's radio and TV shows.

        “I'm not used to it,” Grant said. “You tell the same story and talk about the same game over and over. I started feeling like, man, I wonder how (Michael) Jordan feels, because he's 10 times, 20, 30 times on top of things.”

        Grant, 27, was back at Georgetown High School, his alma mater, Friday to conduct a free clinic for close to 200 area kids with the help of former XU teammates Larry Sykes, Steve Gentry and Tyrice Walker. Last year, Grant held a camp, which he intended to do again, but he underwent knee surgery about a month ago and still can't run. He may not be at full strength when the NBA season starts.

        Even in the offseason, the spotlight has not completely vanished. The Inside Stuff,a TV show produced for NBA Entertainment, was in Georgetown to shoot video for a segment on Grant giving back to the community. It is expected to air in the next few months.

        What the national media raved about most during the playoffs were Grant's off-the-court activities and his all-out style of play. Television commentators gushed over his effort, aggressiveness and how he performed on offense and defense.

        He had helped lead Portland to a 35-15 regular-season record and the Pacific Division title. The Blazers knocked off Phoenix and Utah in the playoffs before being upended by eventual champion San Antonio.

        “It was a fun year,” Grant said. “Basketballwise, I think it was the best year I ever had.”

        He also won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding community service and charitable work.

        The Brian Grant Foundation provides dinners for families involved with Mothers Against Gang Violence in Northeast Portland. He started a Scholastic Attendance Program, which awards tickets to Trail Blazers games as a reward for school attendance.

        The most publicized event was his befriending of a terminally ill 12-year-old boy who died in February from brain cancer. Grant stopped talking publicly about the relationship soon after the story came out.

        “... I didn't want certain things exploited,” he said. “I'm not doing (community service) for attention, so if there was no attention given, that's fine with me, because we're still going to do what we do.”

        Grant is well aware that his visibility has increased, and that has made him more cautious in public. He said he doesn't stay out too late and sometimes avoids certain establishments in Portland where trouble is more likely to occur. He surrounds himself with friends who are also conscious of his image.

        “People are watching,” Grant said. “There's a certain way I'm going to carry myself, and they're going to carry themselves the same way.”

        People are watching.

        Before his clinic started Friday, Grant was presented with a key to the Village of Georgetown, honored with a plaque by the Brown County Commissioners and told that signs will go up at the entrance to Georgetown saying: “Georgetown, Ohio, Hometown of NBA Basketball Star Brian Grant.”

        Grant thanked everyone in attendance, then told the kids:

        “By seeing me, you guys can understand that you can have dreams, and those dreams can come true. I didn't just make it; we all made it.”


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