Illinois assistant basketball coaches Wayne McClain and Jerrance Howard left their hometown, but they haven’t turned their backs on Peoria. They also hope their city doesn’t forget about the Carver Community Center in the South Peoria neighborhood.
CHAMPAIGN — Illinois assistant basketball coaches Wayne McClain and Jerrance Howard left their hometown, but they haven’t turned their backs on Peoria. They also hope their city doesn’t forget about the Carver Community Center in the South Peoria neighborhood.
A home away from home for black students for generations, Carver lost a portion of its funding last summer, according to a Peoria Journal Star report, and concern grew over its future. Peoria still needs Carver, say McClain and Howard, a pair of Carver “alumni.’’
“This place has helped so many people, you can’t begin to put a price on how good it has been for people,’’ McClain said.
Carver flourished out of a program founded by the local chapter of the National Association of Colored Women Clubs in the early 1920s. The students played sports, acted in plays, arranged talent shows and studied music, dance and art. It became a cornerstone of the neighborhood for decades, and Carver also was known as comedian Richard Pryor’s first stage.
Home away from home
“I view it as one of the most important parts of my life,’’ McClain said. “I was able to run over to the Carver as early as I can remember. Carver was always that safe haven. You went there and didn’t have to worry. You grew up a person because it was a community place. Everybody was there.’’
That’s where Howard got his feet on the ground, when the center was known as a mecca for basketball.
“I spent every summer there from the age of 9 through high school,’’ Howard said.
Times have changed, and the economic downturn hasn’t helped. According to a Journal Star report in June, Carver’s child care center and youth program were among eight programs at six agencies that lost a total of about $220,000 in United Way grants. Sources told the Journal Star the lost United Way grants at Carver totaled about $80,000, or about 40 percent of the approximately $200,000 annual budget.
McClain also worked at Carver while a teacher/coach at Manual High School, when he helped coordinate jobs through the Urban League, and he still donates his time and money, he said.
“I continue to offer my support as much as I can,’’ McClain said. “I hope to come back this summer and offer some of my time.’’
Howard raised more than $20,000 with a bowling event last summer, then used $10,000 to rebuild the basketball court at Pierson Hills and donated another $10,000 to Carver, he said. The bowling fundraiser is in the works for next summer, and Howard said the star attraction would be NBA all-star Deron Williams, the former Illini guard.
Howard started his Live life with Passion Foundation, and realized the joy of giving back. Howard also organized a junior basketball league, and his efforts earned recognition from the city.
“Success is being able to help others,’’ Howard said. “It’s a good feeling to give back and make a difference.’’
Howard and McClain hope Peoria doesn’t turn its back at a time of need.
The Illinois home game against Indiana has been designated as an 11 a.m. tipoff on March 5 with broadcast on BTN, the conference announced Monday. Indiana coach Tom Crean objected through his Twitter account, because Indiana plays a home game on March 3 that doesn’t tip until 8. It leaves Indiana with roughly a 36-hour turnaround.
“I feel like we should jump in some vans, put the 8 track tapes in, get some cheese sandwiches and have a old school road trip,’’ Crean tweeted. “I am okay with 1 day in between games on occasion but 36 hours? In a rivalry game? That defies rationalization.”
Illinois junior shortstop Josh Parr, the former Chillicothe IVC star, hit .385 in the season’s opening weekend to earn honorable mention in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. He was 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-2 with two outs, driving in three two-out RBIs. Parr also didn’t make an error in nine chances.
His brother, Justin, started all three games at second base in his first-year in the program after transfering from Parkland College. He was 2-for-12 with two RBI and a run scored. Illinois (1-2) play a three-game series this weekend at Florida Gulf Coast, the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
In other news
Illinois senior Scott Langley and junior Luke Guthrie were named to the watch list for the Ben Hogan Award that goes to the nation’s top collegiate golfer. Langley is the defending NCAA champ who sits No. 7 in the world amateur rankings. Guthrie stands 10th in the Golfweek collegiate rankings.
Illinois junior Tyler Mizoguchi was named Big Ten co-gymnast of the week in men’s action after winning the all-around and two event titles Saturday in a dual vs. Penn State. In women’s action, Amber See became the first Illini female gymnast to receive a Big Ten freshman of the week award after winning the vault and finishing second on the floor exercise against UIC on Saturday.