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Andre Iguodala takes time to give back to his hometown community
By Tamara Browning

A "break" during basketball camp at the University of Illinois at Springfield's gym gives National Basketball Association star Andre Iguodala the chance to take in the high energy of 100 youths munching burgers, bouncing basketballs and basking in the dream that they one day, too, might be like Andre.

A Philadelphia 76ers forward-guard and Springfield native, Iguodala serves as an example to the young hopefuls attending The Andre Iguodala and Kevin Gamble Basketball Camp in July that they can be like him in a charitable way.

Off the court, Iguodala is a man of charity through his Andre Iguodala Youth Foundation that inspires and empowers youth through educational and athletic programs.

He has participated in scores of charitable activities such as hosting Andre's Book Drive and Caps for Kids Drive plus establishing the Andre Iguodala Disaster Relief Fund in March 2006 to help tornado victims in Springfield.

Iguodala says he has had excellent  mentors in that regard, including his mother, Linda Shanklin, Arizona coach Lute Olson and his 76ers teammate Aaron McKie.

Shanklin provided for Iguodala's needs in raising him but also taught him that if he "wanted" something, he had to work for it.

Olson set up charitable activities for his players to participate in such as basketball clinics for kids.

"At the time, we didn't know it, but it put us in a position to where we knew exactly what to do, once we made it pro, once we had to speak to the media," Iguodala says.

"All that was kind of like training for that, as far as being in college, training for everything as far as life after that. I think it helped out."

McKie helped Iguodala learn about charity.

"He carried himself well off the court. He dressed the part. He spoke well," Iguodala says.

"(Guys like that) understand they have to continue to be that guy that the young  guys look up to, so whenever I need anything, I will call him, and he pretty much tells me what exactly I need to do."

Striking a balance is what's required, Iguodala says, because of critics who are quick to "always have the answers for your life."

And then there's dealing with people who look at Iguodala as only being able to dish out money and not for things that money can't buy.

"I think it's just the way it is for athletes. People just think we get these huge checks every two weeks, and we just have a lot of money to blow," Iguodala says.

"It's a lot of hard work, but I don't think they see that side of it, the stress that goes into it, the hours that I was over at the gym waking up in the mornings - two hours in the gym, two hours lifting weights."

Plus, Iguodala takes care of the financial needs of his family, including his son, Andre II.

"All that is very tough. Paying all the bills, having two or three mortgages, making sure everybody's taken care of. They don't see that part of it," Iguodala says.

"Just making sure everybody's taking care of themselves as well because you can give somebody money, as much money as possible, but if they're not growing as a person, then you're pretty much hurting them more than they are.

"It's just being able to talk to them, making sure they're doing well in school. I have nieces and nephews now that are starting to go to school ... trying to keep them on the right path as well."

That all goes with Iguodala's goal of helping kids, not just financially, but by giving them words of encouragement, he says.

Iguodala's future charitable goals include establishing a sports academy in Springfield.

"A place for kids to come and get training where they don't have to spend a ton of money to go get baseball training or football training or basketball. Sort of like an expanded Boys & Girls Club," Iguodala says.

Iguodala was a camper in Kevin Gamble's basketball camps held in the early 1990s at Lanphier High School.

For Iguodala to return home to conduct his camps "is exciting," says Gamble, head coach for men's basketball at UIS and a former NBA player with the Boston Celtics and other NBA teams.

"You don't know if there's another Andre Iguodala in there. You don't know if there's another Kevin Gamble in there in that group of kids," Gamble says.

"I think that's what it's all about, giving kids opportunities. That's the thing that we gave Andre when he was young - an opportunity to come to a basketball camp."

Story published Friday, September 5, 2008 ( Volume 3, Number 5 )

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