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Former NBA Player Infuses Zeal for Skills On, Off the Court

Hip-hop music blared inside the Godwin Height High School gymnasium the last few days in July, creating a feel-good mood that resonated with the young people who swayed to the beat while standing in single file.

Applause erupted when retired National Basketball Association player Mateen Cleaves explained that he and the 20 assembled coaches were there to help them accomplish more than improving their bank shots and free throws.

“You have to have a plan to develop a work ethic, to achieve your goals,” said Cleaves, a three-time Michigan State University captain who played for a handful of professional teams including the Detroit Pistons and the Seattle SuperSonics. “You need that to succeed in life.”

More Than Dribbling

This was the first summer Cleaves’s “1 Goal, 1 Passion” summer basketball camp was made available to the Godwin Heights district.

Enrollment was open to students from all school districts for a $1 registration. Besides Godwin Heights, Cleaves offered his basketball camps in Benton Harbor, Flint and Lansing this year, serving an estimated 1,000 students state-wide.

“I’ve seen a lot of camps, but not one like this, that’s this affordable to the community,” Superintendent Bill Fetterhoff said.

Cleaves and his coaching staff, comprised of teachers, counselors and social workers who either played in the NBA or on college basketball teams, mixed skills lessons into the camp such as goal setting, character, financial literacy and nutrition.

Goal setting comes in more than one variety, Cleaves told campers. He had the students prove what they’re capable of starting with basic stretching exercises, then pushing them a little more.

Mateen Cleaves explains to students he wants to help them develop a work ethic

Work Hard

Cleaves said his mother, Frances E. Cleaves, encouraged him to launch the non-profit in 2000, for the love of his community and the value of giving back. Other efforts of 1 Goal 1 Passion include book clubs and a food and toy drive during the holidays. Local, regional and national sponsors help keep programs operating.

Antwine Chamberlain said attending the camp has helped to nudge him to keep working, keep aspiring.

“They’ve shown me not to give up, to keep on pushing,” said Antwine, who will be a junior this fall at Byron Center High School. “I want to finish college. “The harder I work, the easier it gets.”

Shaylin Rings, a seventh-grader at Comstock Park’s Mill Creek Middle School, said she’s been to a number of basketball camps, but not one like Cleaves’s.

“I like the feeling of dribbling the ball and feeling the quick movements,” Shaylin said. “Here, I’ve learned setting goals helps you in the long run.”

Jerseys As Lesson

All 400 students who signed up for the camp at Godwin Heights (about two hundred 8- to 12-year-olds in the morning session, and another 200 ages 13 to 17 in the afternoon) received a 1 Goal, 1 Passion jersey that they were required to wear each of the camp’s three days.

If they forgot to wear them, they were required to do push-ups, or as Cleaves’s branding manager, Martine Charles described it, “muscle memory.”

“They’ll take what they’ve learned here into their schools,” Charles said. “They know they can be successful.”


1 Goal 1 Passion

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