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Towson University

Basketball with a purpose
By Benjamin Hughes
For BaltimoreStories.com

Back in 2001, Kevin Anderson was working in U.S. Army as a foreign liaison for international affairs at the Pentagon. That meant he would escort foreign officials from different countries to two military bases in the U.S.A. and one overseas, so that the world could see and feel alright about what the American military was doing.

On September 11, Anderson overslept at the NCO barracks at Ft. Myers. At the time the plane struck the part of the Pentagon, Anderson was scheduled to take some financial documents to the part of the building that was hit the worst. Even though he suffered through posttraumatic stress, Anderson knows why his life was spared.

“God helped me oversleep to do this,” Anderson said. “God gave me a vision to use basketball and to be able to talk to kids.”

Now retired from the military and working for the Department of Agriculture, Anderson uses his free time to be around kids and basketball. He is volunteering with
Lorenzo Plater as youth director for the Cloverdale/BBA and running a church league at a YMCA near Memorial Stadium. He uses his life experiences to inform kids how they should view their world.

“I bring life to them,” Anderson said. He has traveled all over to include Korea, Italy, Alaska and Hawaii. “I have seen things from all over the world. I teach them what they don’t know.”

He uses lessons in basketball to carry over in everyday life. Anderson says if a kid is late for basketball practice, then he’ll be late for his job. He wants his players to treat playing basketball for him like a job. He also had some more advice for young men.

“Think for yourself, don’t be a follower,” Anderson said. “A leader is on who thinks for himself, right or wrong. A follower sticks with the clique. Take care of your brother and he’ll take care of you. Take people at face value.”

Anderson now knows not judge people based on their appearance. It was an unlikely person who helped change his life.

After getting his girlfriend pregnant, getting into multiple fights causing his rank to be reduced to an E-1 and doing drugs, Anderson was about to be put out of the military. At a carnival, a lieutenant colonel, who had known him from playing basketball for an Army team, approached Anderson. The high-ranking officer was willing to sign a waiver to allow the trouble soldier to reenlist because Anderson said “he saw something in me that I didn’t.” He decided to take the offer and made a decision to change his life.

“I made a pact with God to stay off drugs,” Anderson said. “You don’t know who has your back.”

Anderson, who is studying social work and criminal justice at Coppin State, wants to help youth like someone helped him.

“God has blessed me,” Anderson said. “And I’m out here trying to bless others.”

Since beginning to work in Baltimore four years ago, Anderson has helped three kids who “started out as thugs” get into college. Not everyone is always easy to help. A 14-year-old boy pulled a gun on him over a disagreement on the court. Anderson had to explain what he was trying to do for him and the community, now the kid is one of his biggest supporters.

“Kids will work for you if you show you will work for them,” Anderson said. He said that a lot of people complain about the youth of today being troubled. He proposed this question to those people: “Have you ever grabbed them by the hand and walked them through life?”

Plater wants Anderson to carry on his legacy of working with youth of Baltimore when he done. Anderson is ready to “take up the torch” but his vision expands past the city limits of Baltimore. He wants to “get the spirit involved” and see the program expand up and down the East Coast.

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