Antelopes Bring Holiday Hoops to St. Vincent de Paul
The Antelope men’s basketball team unpacked a Santa-sized sack of Christmas cheer Tuesday afternoon in visits to separate St. Vincent de Paul facilities in downtown Phoenix.
The athletes and coaches stopped first at the homeless facility on West Jackson Street to put on a clinic for the adults there. A makeshift court was installed in the parking lot as the players and their hosts engaged in spirited shooting and ballhandling games.
“We’re honored to come down and share a little time with you today,” Head Coach Russ Pennell told the group of more than a dozen afterward. “Christmas time is special to all of us. I want you to know we’re out there and we care.”
Jamie Malone, 43, who has been staying at a nearby shelter, became a GCU fan on the spot. Malone, a former basketball player, displayed a deft shooting touch.
“It’s a blessing what you’ve done here today,” he said. “You’re a great group of guys.”
From there, it was on to St. Vincent’s family facility on West Watkins Road, where several hundred parents and children waited in line for Christmas dinner and an opportunity to see Santa.
The Antelopes received a hero’s welcome as they passed out GCU T-shirts, pennants and rubber “silly bands” to the children. Players Brad Carroll, Gaby Ngoundjo, Braylon Pickrel, Barret Robbins and Kyle Speed were mobbed by the excited kids.
“You have to go out and see this, see people who don’t have things,” Ngoundjo said. “It’s the only way to realize that what you have is precious.”“It was big fun to see the smiles on people’s faces,” Pickrel said. “It was great to make their day and give out stuff.”
The players and their coaches — Pennell, Mark Nelson, Anthony Boone and Matt Brase — stayed on to help as greeters and servers for the dinner. Toys collected during last weekend’s “Season for Sharing” event on campus were distributed afterward.
Also participating in the outing were strength and conditioning coach Chuck Howard, equipment manager Kyle Castillo and basketball manager Katie Nelson. Shannon Landers of GCU’s Event Services coordinated the team’s appearances with Jerry Castro, St. Vincent’s manager of food services.