Thursday, November 18, 1999

XU alums give advice on real world




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Byron Larkin, Xavier class of 1988 and the school's all-time leading scorer, lectured about finances. Dwayne Wilson, class of '93 and now a Cincinnati police officer, spoke about police and legal issues.

        A group of Xavier alumni meet monthly with current players to foster a better connection between the present and past, and to help pass on the kind of knowledge the alums think would have helped them when they were in school. Fifteen former players and the current team showed up for the first session.

        “I wouldn't come here if I didn't think it was worth it,” said Terrance Payne, a 1998 XU graduate who works as a paralegal and director of the diversion program for the Hamilton County prosecutor's office.

        “This is something I could've used. Once you graduate, it's hard as hell out there.”

        Former players met for the past year to set up the program, which started last month. Sunday night was the second get-together. After dinner, there are presentations on topics such as networking, resume writing, identifying business opportunities and stress and time management.

        Richie Harris and Ralph Lee are among the former players slated to speak in the future.

        Coach Skip Prosser thinks the program is important enough to allow the players to miss study hall.

        “I think it's special, and it says a lot for the university and especially says a lot for those former players who want to come back and give of themselves,” Prosser said. “There's nothing in it for them, so to speak. But they care about the kids and they care about the school and they care about the basketball program. Perhaps they've had some pitfalls along the way, and they're trying to prevent that from happening to the new guys.”

        Dozens of former Xavier players are living in the area. Those attending the first meetings spanned from Steve Wolf ('83) to Payne and Pat Kelsey ('98). Also: Larkin, Wilson, Harris ('86), Lee ('86), Walt McBride ('86), J.D. Barnett ('88), Mike Ramey ('88), Jamal Walker ('91), Michael Davenport ('91), Jamie Gladden ('93), Chris Mack ('93), Mark Poynter ('93), Eric Knop ('93), Larry Sykes ('95), Kevin Carr ('96) and Sherwin Anderson ('97).

        Davenport, a former XU assistant coach, and Mack, director of basketball operations, helped set up the program.

        “Players are pampered, then after four years it's over with,” said Walker, who teaches mentally challenged students at Woodward High School. “I think it's important these guys know it's not going to be a free gravy train after school's over with. A lot of guys are blinded thinking after four years they're going to have an NBA contract or have a job waiting for them. It's not like that.”

        The gatherings can turn into opportunities for community business contacts. They also can create mentoring relation ships among past and present players.

        “We decided amongst ourselves that this is something we thought was important,” Davenport said. “Whenever I make a decision, I talk to Steve Wolf, Byron and Ralph and Richie. Those guys have been there, they're very successful, they're all older than me.”

        Some of what the players hear will supplement what Prosser tells them. But coming from another source may mean more.

        “In college, you get exposed to a lot of things,” Larkin said. “Some things you remember, some things you don't. I think they'll remember this a lot more because of who it's coming from. It can only help. It's our responsibility to make sure these guys are not just basketball players and they leave and nothing becomes of them. We don't want them to be lost because we know that feeling.”

        “I don't care who the mes senger is, as long as the message gets across,” Prosser said. “If Byron or Terrance or Chris or Mike Davenport can convey that message better than I, that's fine. I think sometimes they will listen more to someone who is more their contemporaries. I have no problem with that.”

        The players listened closely last month as Larkin talked about not using credit cards, staying out of debt and developing a plan to save money.

        “I thought it was cool,” freshman David West said. “It showed they care about us as far as making sure we don't make the same mistakes as they did. Like one of them said, "It's better to start now getting your contacts than it is to wait until two days before you're getting ready to graduate.'”

        “It was interesting,” redshirt sophomore Alvin Brown said. “I was really listening to Byron because I'm a finance major and I'll probably be doing a similar field that he's in.”

        Added junior Marcus Mason: “I feel if I have any problems, I can talk to them. I just know that I'm going to take advantage of the information.”

       



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