Former University of Maryland men’s basketball champion and longtime NBA veteran Chris Wilcox is changing kids’ lives — and not through the game of basketball.
After finishing his NBA career after the 2012-13 season due to heart problems, Wilcox started Helping EveryDay Youth (HEDY), a program that provides educational and community resources for underserved youth.
“Basically what my company does is rebuild the community with the community,” Wilcox said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 13. “We go in and we hire within the community and create jobs and opportunities for not only the kids, but for the families themselves.”
Through HEDY, Wilcox has been working with Native American students on reservations in Arizona by running a STEM program to introduce kids to a world of opportunities with after-school programs, mentors and community engagement, according to HEDY’s website. He first worked in behavioral health, but he stepped in to help a STEM program in Arizona after hearing it was losing funding.
“What we do is we take kids and we just show them a different style of learning and things like that,” Wilcox said. “Before you start giving them meds and telling them they have ADHD … first what we wanted to do was see if we could show them a different style of learning and see if we can get them to be engaged.”
Wilcox said the kids involved in the program started to engage better through hands-on learning like robotics. Students did well in state and global robotics competitions, becoming the first Native American teams to perform as well as they did in robotics, Wilcox said.
The robotics program gives the kids a chance to work directly with technology like drones and shapes an interest for how things work rather than just playing with them. Wilcox said HEDY has been able to implement STEM and robotics in local schools.
While his main focus is on reshaping education on the reserves, Wilcox’s basketball past is another inspiration for the kids he works with.
“The natives, they love basketball, and it’s something that draws the kids in because now knowing that they can see a professional athlete come to their reservation, someone that’s been in a similar situation and come out of it, and then teaching them those same life skills and teaching them that they can come out of it,” Wilcox said. “Through basketball, through any sport, it can show you the world.”
Wilcox also touched on some other topics…
On the Terps (22-4 overall, 12-3 Big Ten):
“I just like the whole program. I think we’re starting to get it. We’re bringing in the right guys. I think that they’re playing hard, that’s the difference. And coming down the stretch and definitely going into March, you’ve got to be on the same page and everything has to be clicking.”
On Jalen Smith:
“It’s fun to watch him man, he brings the energy, he’s a competitor. … I think all of this right now is a learning process and I think that Jalen is doing a great job with controlling the paint. I would just like to see him face up a little more and attack a little bit more.”
On working toward a championship in 2002:
“We practiced hard, we played hard. When we played and practiced, we just couldn’t wait to get to the next game because we were competing every day and we knew we were getting better. … I mean, it’s tough, but you know, at the end of the day if you put in the work — the expectations that you have for yourself, you just can’t wait to get the opportunity to play.”
To hear more from Wilcox, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics