Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Basketball Coach Martin Has Purposeful Homecoming in East St. Louis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou Basketball Coach Martin Has Purposeful Homecoming in East St. Louis

Article excerpt

EAST ST. LOUIS - When the basketballs finished bouncing and shoes stopped squeaking on the hardwood floor, Cuonzo Martin began to speak.

More than 40 kids from East St. Louis sat silently, staring at the Missouri coach, and listened as he facilitated a question-and-answer session with sophomore forward Jeremiah Tilmon.

After Tilmon answered the final question, Martin's staff members handed each child a piece of paper on Mizzou letterhead. At the top of each sheet, underlined and in bold letters, was a message Martin wanted the kids to remember.

I'm extraordinary.

"Extraordinary means you're special," Martin told the campers. "It's a beautiful thing."

The coach, who is from East St. Louis, was leading a youth camp at Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center. Martin's hometown deals with crime and poverty, and the camp was free for everyone in attendance.

Martin and the Mizzou program hosted free camps around the St. Louis area Monday and Tuesday, and they will lead another in Kansas City on Wednesday.

"When you're able to pour into the community, it's always a good thing, and it's a way of giving back. Not just the basketball aspect, but also life," he said. "We talk about being respectful, being on time, trying your best, never giving up, being accountable to do what's right."

Along with providing basketball instruction to youngsters, the East St. Louis camp gave community members the chance to see Martin. Joyner-Kersee, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who built the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in 2000, stayed for the whole event and had a chance to catch up with Martin, who she has known since he was a teenager. She said she considers herself his big sister.

Martin and Joyner-Kersee are two of the most celebrated athletic figures from East St. Louis, and they make efforts to help the community. Martin helped start a nonprofit organization to help the city, and Joyner-Kersee has a youth-focused foundation.

"They made it," said Patty Leake, a senior resident who has known Joyner-Kersee and Martin since they were children. …

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