St. Louis, Mo. -- Former Saint Louis University and NBA star Larry Hughes came back to his alma mater, Christian Brothers College High School, on Friday night to raise awareness for the Organ Donor Registry. After years of on-court success, it was fitting that the event, "Dunk'n For Donors", took place on the hardwood.
Hughes' brother, Justin, was born with a heart defect and lived until he was 20 after being the recipient of a transplant at age 11. With several hundred supporters in attendance, Hughes was able to provide an entertaining evening that would have made his brother proud.
"It's a blessing," he said. "This place, CBC, has given me a lot of tools that I use in every day life and in professional life. I always come back here, and to come back here and pull somebody else up, that's really what it's about for me. Coming here to do the Dunk'n for Donors made it special, because this is where it all started for me."
The dunk competition featured two celebrity judges, NBA players Shannon Brown and Kwame Brown. Both men had very positive remarks about Hughes and the importance of community involvement.
"I am grateful that Larry called me and thought about me to come out here and share in something special," Shannon said. "What that cause is for – it's for saving lives. I [also] got to see him give away a scholarship to a deserving person and to see the kids have a great time."
Kwame firmly felt that attending the event was far more important than simply writing a check.
"I think all of us have a testimony and a lot of [NBA] guys don't take the time to give back -- instead they just give their money," he said. "I'm a donor too, so it's great to be here. These kids are ecstatic to come out and be around us and be able to touch us, so I think that it is more important to come out and use your time and not just your money. Money is easy to give."
St. Louis native Keenen Lawson took home the crown and sent the crowd into a frenzy after successfully clearing six members of the local women's semi-pro basketball team while throwing down a thunderous finish in the final round of the contest.
"It was wonderful to give back to the community," Lawson said. "I actually never played basketball in high school. I have a 46-inch vertical jump, so I went and played men's volleyball."
|Keenen Lawson skies for a monstrous dunk to win the Dunk'n For Donors contest.|
|(Lawrence Bryant of LB Photography)|
Shannon competed in the 2010 NBA All-Star slam dunk contest and thought highly of the participants."They were impressive," he said. "I'm more of a one-foot jumper, but those guys went off two which is impressive for me to watch."
In addition to the high-flying dunks, rising CBC sophomore Damian Baker was awarded with a four-year scholarship to the high school, courtesy of Hughes.
"I've been blessed with a lot, and a lot of it I don't need," Hughes said. "What I don't need, I try to spread it around to those who need it. It's a small thing for me to do, but it's going to make a big difference in that young man's life."
Baker recently completed his freshman year at CBC with a 3.6 GPA. In presenting the scholarship, Hughes remarked that although the two had never previously met, he wanted to become a mentor for Baker throughout the rest of his journey in high school and beyond.
One can expect more events to come through the St. Louis area in the future.
"This is the first of many," Hughes said. "I think we should do it again. I don't think it should be a set time. I think we should just have the Registry Drive partnered with the dunk contest or partnered with a game or whatever the case may be to put some fun towards a good cause."
NOTES: Shannon Brown will be hosting the Wood-Star Music Festival from Aug. 17-19 in Chicago, Ill. Brown said that all of the proceeds towards giving away scholarships to help young kids who need financial assistance.
More information on the Larry Hughes Foundation can be found at larryhughesworld.com.