Aug. 9, 2013
When growing up, do you remember the first time you picked up a basketball? Do you remember if an adult lifted you high up into the air before you took aim at the rim and the basket?
You could get a lot closer to a regulation backboard and basket if San Jose State University's Rashad Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 incoming freshman from Las Vegas or 7-foot-1 sophomore center Mike VanKirk took you off your feet and on to their shoulders.
Muhammad and VanKirk did that and much more on a recent visit to the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley at the end of July for a day of reading and playtime with youngsters ranging from 18 months to five years-old.
New assistant coach Chris Brazelton set up the visit which falls in line with new head coach Dave Wojcik's desire to see his team have a meaningful role beyond the San Jose State boundaries.
"I thought it was a real good experience," says Muhammad, a Bishop Gorman High graduate who helped his school win a pair of Nevada state high school championships. "People used to come into our class, read and interact with us."
For Muhammad, he put on his narrative voice with his interpretations of "No David!" by David Shannon and "Old Hat New Hat" by Stan Berenstain, the author best known for his Berenstain Bears series of children's readers.
There was no fast break by Muhammad nor VanKirk. They read at a deliberate pace and asked questions of their audience. That was before the Spartan basketball players headed to more familiar grounds when it was playtime.
"There was a playground in the back with a basketball hoop set up. We picked them up and let them dunk a ball. They really enjoyed that," recalls Muhammad, who also volunteered on his own initiative two days this summer bagging food at the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose.
For Muhammad, he is accustomed to community activities. It was part of his high school life in Las Vegas when he was not working on his game.
"Back there, it was (reading to) 1st and 2nd graders. It was during Nevada Reading Week. We went to the elementary school next to the high school and read to a lot of kids," the incoming freshman remembers. "It's always good to do some volunteer work every once in a while."
Muhammad foresees Coach Wojcik and the new San Jose State men's basketball staff constructing a plan to participate in community events through the school year. And, he welcomes the opportunity to do it.
"We want to interact and give back to the community. It shows we have some discipline; we have heart," says Muhammad.
Look for Muhammad, Van Kirk and the rest of the San Jose State team to show their hearts when they take the floor at The Event Center and at future community events benefitting citizens of all ages.