Celebrating the champs

Published 11:23 pm Monday, March 13, 2006

By By Matthew Nascone
The achievements the Escambia County Blue Devils boy's basketball team accomplished this past season have not gone unnoticed in the city of Atmore.
The patrons of Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church hosted an appreciation banquet Friday night in the fellowship hall of their church. Other sponsors for the banquet were, First National Bank &Trust of Atmore, David's Catfish, Chuck Stevens Chevrolet and mayor Howard Shell.
The banquet was for all the players on the roster of the 2005-06 AHSAA Class 4A Area 1 Champions and their parents.
Rev. Willie Hawthorne was the master of ceremony for the event and Dr. Ullysses McBride, a native of Atmore, was the speaker.
McBride had a firm message for the athletes sitting in the room.
"I am going to talk to these young men on the basketball team tonight and everyone else can listen if they want to," McBride said. "And my subject for tonight is for you to find a way or make a way."
McBride, who has been recognized by "Ebony" magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans, told the team that they are champions and they should never forget that. He described the elephant as the world's strongest creature that is now caged for entertainment.
After explaining how the elephant was tricked into enslavement by zoo keepers with ropes and chains, he made a real-life connection to this struggle of the elephant.
"You are champions and are destined to go a long way," he said. "But the world will try to rope you into bad decisions. The first rope will be that you are from Atmore and the second rope will be waiting for you on a corner as you leave this place."
McBride explained that these ropes can be broken if the young men in the room are willing to be strong and not get caught by those ropes. As far as people saying nothing good ever came from Atmore, McBride told the boys to remember the success they had this season and they should be able to put away those thoughts of nothing happening in Atmore.
Hawthorne said he believes in the message McBride evoked in his speech.
"I don't believe nothing good can come out of Atmore because I am looking at good right now," he said.
McBride was the keynote speaker, but many other people got up to the podium and showed how proud they are of Big Blue. ECHS principal Kyle Ferguson, assistant principal David McKinley, head boy's basketball coach Jerome Antone and assistant coach Marshall Davis all shared their emotions with the audience.
ECHS bookkeeper LaShonda Marshall showed her appreciation for the team by singing a ballad to the guys while telling them how proud she is of their accomplishments.
As far as the way this team affected the community, Ferguson said it best.
"These young men have been instrumental in bringing this community together," he said.

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