mcj-2019-08-07-news-amory-basketball- wilbanks-blair

Amory police officer Zack Wilbanks watches as De’Andre Blair tosses a ball toward the basket on a driveway next to his residence on Main Street in Amory. Wilbanks provided the goal as a gift to Blair when he saw the boy dribbling the ball up and down the sidewalk day after day as he drove by.

AMORY – De’Andre Blair, a 13-year-old often seen practicing shots at his home alongside Main Street, has been a basketball fan for as long as he can remember, tracing it back to age 4. His father, Chris, even said De’Andre’s first word was “ball.”

“He had a little bitty ball that was his favorite toy,” his father recalled.

When De’Andre and his family recently moved to their current home, he only had sidewalks and no basketball goal to practice his game. His persistence in doing the best he could with what he had attracted the attention of others who are offering help.

“He would go up and down the sidewalk dribbling that ball,” his mother, LaTrece, said. “We couldn’t bring a goal to where we live, yet the neighborhood has been so helpful to him.”

Fitness coach Patrick Garth noticed De’Andre practicing his skills on the sidewalks and offered fitness training. Another community servant who pitched in to help was Amory police officer Zack Wilbanks. When De’Andre got permission to use a neighbor’s driveway, Wilbanks made arrangements with De’Andre’s parents and brought a basketball goal for him and left before he could find out who did it.

Mary Barker operates a snow cone business across the street and has brought over a cool treat for him with ice left over at the end of the day.

“She has brought him snow cones several times,” De’Andre’s father said.

As a young school boy, De’Andre was inspired watching other students play basketball in the gymnasium while he attended West Amory Elementary School. He began by playing soccer and flag football as a preschooler. He now plays both football and basketball.

“It involves more than practice. It takes a lot of holding and jumping to build accuracy,” he said.

De’Andre is about to begin his last year at Amory Middle School and plays point guard for the school’s basketball team. Playing with the Upward Sports Church Youth League gave him a lot of needed playing time on the court.

“We lost only one game in 2017. We won the countywide championship,” he said.

The future star of the basketball court lives by his favorite quote from NBA star Kevin Durant – “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

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