Aug 14, 2013
By Katie Ryan
The importance of community service is a hallmark of all USC student-athletes. Four former Trojan athletes, led by women's basketball star, Cherie Nelson, are doing their part by making a positive impact throughout the Los Angeles area.
Cherie Nelson played basketball for the Women of Troy from 1985-89, earning All-Pac-10 first team honors in 1987 and 1989 and named the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1988. She's among the career leaders in several statistical categories for the NCAA, Pac-12, and USC. She remains ranked No. 2 all-time at Troy in scoring, free throws made, and rebounding average.
Nelson, who grew up in Altadena, Calif., heard through family and friends about the current drug problem and high school dropout rate in the Pasadena Unified School District, which encompasses her hometown, and decided she wanted to help.
"I called Tyrone Fuller, Duane Cooper and Ronnie Coleman," Nelson said. "I said, `I need a favor. There's a huge problem in the school district with drugs and with kids dropping out.' I said, `We need to do something.'"
The four former Trojans came together and devised a plan to give back to the community. They decided to create a Wednesday night basketball clinic to keep the kids off the streets, while focusing their energy on something positive.
Said Nelson: "I thought that having the kids see other athletes who had done well and who came from the same community, hopefully would inspire them to get on a different path and better their lives and start dreaming again."
The Cherie Nelson Basketball Skills Clinic is vastly different from an ordinary basketball workshop. This clinic focuses on fundamentals, and the children receive coaching from some of the best players to come out of USC. Nelson has also developed a system where each coach is at a different basket, teaching a specific skill that they mastered as players. The players rotate between coaches every 15 minutes and learn different skills, receiving one-on-one time from each coach to hone specific fundamentals.
Nelson guarantees progress from her clinic. If the parents believe that their child has not progressed, they can send them back to the clinic free of charge.
In addition to learning basketball, the children are learning life lessons. Former Clippers player, Lamond Murray, was a special guest at the last session of Nelson's clinic.
Said Nelson: "Lamond came out and spoke to the kids for about 20 minutes on the importance of nutrition, staying in school, listening to their parents and staying off drugs."
Other organizations are beginning to take notice of Nelson's contribution to the L.A. area. The Los Angeles Sparks have even donated basketballs to Nelson's clinic.
Nelson finds great joy in being able to give back to the children in her community.
"In my life, I just want to see how many lives I can touch," she said. "I believe if someone has done something for you, pass that wisdom on to the next generation. I know somebody helped me. Cheryl Miller's dad helped me with basketball. My high school coach, Marsha Wilson, helped teach me basketball. They took the time out of their weekends to help me. Now, I'm in the position where I've learned a lot and traveled the world and played professional basketball. I'm at a place in my life where I'm able and ready to give back. I hope that when these kids grow up, they will be inspired to do the same thing... give back to the community."
For more information on the Cherie Nelson Basketball Clinic and how to sign up, go to www.nelsonbasketballclinic.com