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COACH CARTER

The Man Behind It All
Describing himself as "a little guy from Macomb, Mississippi, Ken Carter grew up with seven sisters and a brother. When his family moved to Richmond, California, Carter played basketball from 1973-77 for the same high school, which on January 4, 1999, would not only put Richmond on the national news, but also put Ken Carter into the headlines.

"We were 13 and 0 — undefeated on the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity levels and the city was going crazy with excitement,” remembers Carter. "So when I locked the kids out for not keeping up their grades, the community really got up in arms. Several of the kids had broken the contract, which they and their parents had signed, so because they were a team, everyone was accountable.”

The contract, which required regular class attendance, sitting in the front row and wearing a shirt and tie on game days, also made it mandatory that all the players maintain at least a 2.3 grade point average.

"My idea was to substitute books for balls, simple as that,” says Carter, who chose the 2.3 figure because with a 2.0. SAT scores had to be at least 1010 to earn an athletic scholarship. "With a 2.3, the SAT could be 900. and let me tell you, it's much easier to raise your grade point average than it is to score higher on the SAT.”

Carter claims that the contract made it less probable that the kids in Richmond would full through the cracks. He also feels that it made his players directly responsible for their future as well as teach them respect for themselves and their teammates.

"Richmond is a working man's town with a very high rate of unemployment, so there's a lot of poverty and stress,” observes Caner. "Also, a great number of kids in the area are from single parent homes, and in fact, out of the 45 kids in my basketball program, only four had dads living in the home. So as their coach, I had to be something of a psychologist and even a substitute father figure at times.”

Believing that all troubled kids need is someone who cares, Carter is a firm believer that underdogs can prevail when they have someone who believes in them. "All you need is guidance and a road map,” says Carter. "That's all my contract was — a roadmap to help these kids change their lives."

Carter also believes that things don't happen overnight, that change comes gradually with steadfast perseverance. "If you improve one percent a day, then in 100 days, guess what? You're 100 percent better!” exclaims Carter. "I mean, it doesn't take a genius to figure that out. You see, it's all about momentum. Once you start making one good decision, then you make another and another, and before you know it, you can see a difference in your life.”

Teaching his players to shoot straight on and off the court, Carter also wants all kids to shoot for the top. "You don't want to simply see the big picture, you want to see the whole picture,” says Carter. "So when kids come to me and say they want fame and lots of money like Kobe and Shaq, I tell them dessert doesn't come first in a four course meal. Besides, there's only one Kobe and one Shaq. Think beyond that and believe that someday you can be the guy who signs Kobe and Shaq's paycheck!”

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