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Flint, MI – Ten-year-old basketball player Jacob Turner’s face lit up as Coach David Munerlyn, 82, handed him a box with a brand new pair of Puma sneakers and a copy of “All In: The Kelvin Torbert Story” at the Haskell Community Center in Flint.
On Tuesday, as the setting sun leaked through the windows of the gymnasium, coaches yelled “balls up!” after practice and called in their sweaty 4th- and 5th-grade players to the center of the court.
Flint natives Kelvin Torbert, formerly one of the best high school basketball players from Michigan, and ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard, who wrote the book with Torbert, took to the center of the court to offer words of encouragement to the players.
“Coach Mun told me I could be something. When there was teachers and people in the hood who told me I’d be nothing, he believed in me. My parents believed in me. Other coaches believed in me. And guess what, I took what they said. Growing up in Flint, they don’t think ya’ll going to make it. That’s just the blunt honesty to it. As small as this city is, there’s a lot of people who made it, like Kyle Kuzma, he gave ya’ll shoes,” Torbert said with the circle of young eyes on him.
Torbert and Woodyard have been working together on “All In,” a biography of Torbert’s life, since 2014. In the first two pages of the book, Woodyard explains why it’s important. It reads:
“So when you ask me what’s the overall goal of the book, it’s to reintroduce one of the greatest high school basketball players of all time to a younger generation and also clearing up some misconceptions for the people that watched him live.
“The purpose is also to tell his story the right way and to give young athletes some insight on what life can be like if you have all of this hype entering college and things don’t pan out the way you plan it. What does life look like then? And will you be prepared?”
Torbert explained, “The book is not only about basketball but about life, about mental health, and just about fighting your way out of deep rabbit holes and things of that nature.” and added, “it’s for us to give a shoutout to Coach Mun, that’s still doing it, whose been doing it for the last 30 years, going around with these kids, it says a lot about him and the community, the parents trust him.”
Woodyard and Torbert wanted to use the proceeds from the book to do something positive for the community. They teamed up with Flint native Washington Wizards NBA player Kyle Kuzma to get a discount on new Puma sneakers for each of the 4th- and 5th-graders.
The young basketball players stood quietly in anticipation, waiting for Coach David Munerlyn to read their names from the atop the shoeboxes one by one. They opened the boxes to reveal their fresh kicks and a crisp copy of All in, and then excitedly headed to Torbert and Woodyard for autographs.
“We need more people like ourselves, to control our narrative in Flint. We hear all these urban stories about how this person was great or that, but like, we don’t really have a platform to control our own narrative, so I think now, we have that platform and we have the kids and the people to do it. I’m just so happy to be from Flint and to be in the position I’m in to give back. It’s just love, the energy here today, these kids will remember this forever,” Woodyard said.