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Standout Basketball Player Returns from Virginia to Promote Education

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Feb. 6, 2008 — Led by St. Thomas native Eric Wilson, the boys' varsity basketball team from Wakefield School in Virginia visited Lockhart Elementary Wednesday morning to talk to students about the importance of getting a good education.
The team, along with head coach Scott Barron, came to the territory earlier this week to face off in games against Antilles School and Charlotte Amalie High School. Coming away 1-1 in the games — Wakefield beat Antilles by 11 points, but lost to CAHS by nine — team members said they were happy just to be on island interacting with the local community and getting a chance to share their knowledge and experiences with V.I. students.
"Wakefield is a pretty special place to us — it's a small school, but we do a lot of amazing things," Barron said at Lockhart Wednesday. "We get the opportunity to come to places like this. Last year, we traveled to New Orleans, La., to do some hurricane-relief work — we went down and rebuilt some of the houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. So, our basketball program and our school is a big believer in public service, and every year we take a trip. And this year, because of Eric Wilson, we thought it would very appropriate to come to St. Thomas and see where he grew up and see what we could do maybe to help the community here."
Each player on the team also had an opportunity to tell the school's fifth- and sixth-graders what Wakefield meant to them and how important it is to balance their extracurricular activities with academic work.
"What Wakefield does for us and what our work does for us is pretty much prepare for the future," said Alex Floyd, junior guard. "Does anyone know how to build a building? Well, the way you start out, you get the foundation, then you put the frame, and then you put the roof on. What our education and what our work does is build a very solid foundation, and if you don't have a solid foundation, you can't really do much else in life. So you got to go in steps."
Speaking later, Wilson echoed Floyd's sentiments, explaining to students how he left the territory to play basketball at Wakefield and further his education.
"In ninth grade, I left here to go to Wakefield School on a basketball scholarship," he said. "It was a tough decision for me, but I had to make that choice so I could better my life. If you want to be a college player and want to go to a good school, you have to do well. Some of the players on our team, they messed around and didn't so well in their grades, and they weren't able to come down here with us and enjoy this warm weather — so now they're stuck in the cold, freezing themselves. So you have to stay on your grades and practice at your game, also."
The students cheered as Wilson elaborated on his plans to be a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and were excited when given the opportunity to ask the players questions about their experiences on the mainland. While some students wanted to know what colleges the team's members plan on attending, others asked players how they liked their visit to the territory.
"It's a beautiful island, one of the best places I've ever been, and I would love to come back again," said freshman forward Jeffrey Byrd, to thunderous applause and shouts from the students.
After the hour-long workshop, the team stuck around to read to other lower-school students. Speaking later, Lockhart principal Jamon E. Liburd said he was pleased that the team members were able to stress the importance of learning a sport while focusing on their academics.
"It's also nice to have one of the team members up there representing the Virgin Islands," Liburd said. "And I hope that the students were able to take away the fact that even though these individuals may aspire to have careers in basketball, many of them are also focusing on other areas that they could fall back on. It's wonderful, and shows the students that school really does matter."
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