Trojan-turned-NBA star West joins Wake education group’s new Hall of Fame

kjahner@newsobserver.comSeptember 30, 2013 

— Wake Education Partnership will honor the inaugural class of its new Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame on Oct. 3. But one of the six inductees wasn’t even a good student.

“He wasn’t that good of a student. He will tell you he was intellectually lazy. He just did enough to get by,” Dwayne West said of brother David West, Garner High graduate and current NBA star.

But since high school, West’s positive influence through his basketball program and charitable work have arguably resulted in far more educational effort than he could have ever put forth during his time in school.

“Our primary goal and mission is to affect kids’ lives,” said Dwayne West, who runs day-to-day operations of the Boys and Girls Success (B.A.G.S.) Foundation and Garner Road Basketball Club out of the J.D. Lewis Center on Garner Road in Southeast Raleigh. “(David) is helping a lot of kids.”

Dwayne West will accept the honor in his brother’s place, as David prepares for the NBA season. Dwayne said his brother challenges the kids in all kinds of ways. He said the Wests’ organizations affect roughly 300 families and as many as 700 children in a given year.

“That’s who he is,” Dwayne said. “When his Pacers’ season is over, the moment he’s released, he’s home, and if not that day, then the next day, he’s at the gym with the kids.”

Initially, West’s elite-level, grassroots basketball program and his mentoring efforts were been linked. B.A.G.S. now focuses exclusively on a variety of programs: tutoring, mentoring, health, wellness, abstinence, fitness and even senior fitness and food bank programs.

The Garner Road Basketball Club, meanwhile, has developed elite high school basketball players, including T.J. Warren of N.C. State, Isaiah Hicks of UNC and Anton Gill of Louisville. It has become wholly separate from the foundation. David bought the J.D. Lewis Center from a struggling YMCA branch in 2010.

Leaders recognized

The creation of its new Hall of Fame celebrates the Wake Education Partnership’s 30th anniversary.

For its inaugural class, one person was selected from each of six fields: education, business, community service, entrepreneur, athletics and arts.

The idea is be to honor either successful former WCPSS students or people who contributed to the school system.

The other honorees are former Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill McNeal; Ann Goodnight, who will accept the award on behalf of SAS; lifelong community leader Sherry Worth; Three Ships Media CEO Zach Clayton; and WCPSS senior administrator of the arts Elizabeth Grimes-Droessler.

Wake Education Partnership President Steve Parrott said the idea of creating a Hall of Fame had been brewing for some time. He said it recognizes both the individuals’ contributions to the community and the school system in general.

“That’s what your young people need to hear: ‘Here are some people that came before you and went on to achieve success,’” Parrott said. “Frankly that’s a recognition that has never fully been given.”

When it came to the athletics category, one person stood out who met both criteria – and not just because of his 6-foot-9 frame.

Dragged back

A coach in his native New Jersey had actually killed West’s love of basketball before he moved to Garner at the start of high school. Longtime Garner High coach Eddie Gray heard about the 6-foot-8 kid walking around school and twice asked him to drop by the gym. West blew him off.

“Coach Gray was in his home room. He said ‘I asked you the last two times, this time I’m telling you,’” Dwayne said.

West and Gray clicked, and West returned to basketball. But after four years at Garner he received scant attention from major programs. He spent a year as a postgraduate player at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia before Xavier discovered him and offered a scholarship.

“Hargrave did a lot to change his discipline. Just by changing your study habits, studying each night, he found that the work was even easier, his grades were even better,” Dwayne said.

At Xavier (Ohio) he decided to complete his education (and win a third Atlantic 10 player of the year award) when he could have been a first-round pick as a junior in 2002. Instead he became the 18th pick in the 2003 draft.

“He just kind of decided the impact the school had on him, it was only right that he go ahead and finish,” Dwayne said.

After two seasons of limited NBA minutes, he’s averaged 17 points per game or more in the seven of eight seasons since. He also came back from a torn ACL that he suffered in 2011 in what would be his last season as a Hornet. He signed with Indiana and helped lead a Pacer team to consecutive Eastern Conference Finals.

“He’s a good role model for kids, in that you have to keep trying, you can’t try once, fail and give up,” Parrott said.

Giving back

West bought the YMCA facilitybut had started the B.A.G.S. Foundation years before. He wanted to help give directions to kids: “Mind, body, soul,” Dwayne says.

“If kids think well about themselves, they tend to do better,” Dwayne said.

“A lot of our kids don’t have that information to do better. We try to give them information so that they can do better. You can’t do well in school, max out your abilities if you don’t know how to get organized or know where to start.”

He said the programs are designed to teach good work habits and the importance of education.

The Wests have also partnered with a food bank to help feed anyone in need and with Passage Home to help victims of domestic violence.

Though he works to help run the programs, Dwayne defers credit for the impact on the community to his younger brother.

“He does a lot of that, literally with his body, mind, voice, or with his money,” West’s big brother said. “Everything he’s got, he earned it; he worked really hard for it.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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