Rising Star: Tarboro native, Clippers forward Harrell uses foundation to aid area kids

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Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell dunks as Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Sports Writer

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell will be in Charlotte on Friday for the start of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, though he won’t be in town to play basketball.

Harrell, the Tarboro native who played basketball at North Edgecombe for three years before moving on to star at Louisville, is taking 12 kids from the Rocky Mount area to the Rising Stars game in Charlotte on behalf of his ‘Montrezl Harrell Foundation’ which he began in November.

Harrell has already been aiding youths through his foundation in L.A. and has hosted several outings. During one event, with the help of Microsoft around Christmastime, Harrell hosted more than 20 kids one night to play video games with him, challenging kids to games of NBA2K and Madden. He also handed out winter wear and jackets to inner-city families in December.

In his fourth year in the NBA, the 2010-11 Telegram Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year is becoming more involved on the court as well as in his communities. He is averaging career highs in minutes (26.4), points (15.9), rebounds (6.7), and blocks (1.4), all in a role off the bench. And his new endeavor in Rocky Mount is off to a promising start, too.

When Terrence Taylor, a local mentor and AAU basketball coach in Rocky Mount, saw what Harrell was doing on the West Coast, he reached out to the Clippers’ forward about doing something similar near his hometown. The two had known each other since Harrell was 14 and have stayed close ever since.

“I talked with him about it and he agreed right away,” said Taylor, who runs the foundation in Rocky Mount. “He’s very compassionate and I pick on him all the time and say that he’s a big kid himself. But that’s why he’s relatable. He has a passion for kids.”

When the foundation got its legs and started to plan ideas and events, the next step was to find kids who would benefit from the program. Nash-Rocky Mount school board member Bill Sharpe had heard about Harrell’s foundation and the work it was doing to aid underprivileged kids and offered his help.

“Someone referred me to these two gentleman who wanted to find kids to start the program with,” Sharpe said. “As a board member, and in this capacity a mentor, I’m always looking at how we can better serve our community. A lot of these kids will never see what you and I take for granted every day.

“When I was a kid in school, certain people whether it was a teacher, administrator or coach, had an impact on my life. I remember what that felt like, and I want to impact as many kids as I can in the Nash-Rocky Mount area.”

Along with tickets to Friday’s Rising Stars game, Harrell’s foundation has partnered with Dick’s Sporting Goods, which will provide gift certificates to the store. The 12 kids will then get to go on a shopping spree with Harrell.

A dinner is in the plans as well before the game tips off around 9 p.m.

Along with this foundation, Harrell plans to be active in the area moving forward. Plans for an AAU team are in the works, as well as more events like the one this weekend.

“It’s exciting what Montrezl is bringing to the area,” said Jabaris Walker, a youth case manager in Rocky Mount. “It’s life changing for a lot of those kids. Most haven’t left Rocky Mount before and haven’t experienced anything like what they will experience.

“I’m thankful to be a part of it as it manifests into something great.”