July 12, 2004
Nothing But Nets
Willie Naulls seems to have found the common ground between attention, kids, basketball and God. Naulls grew up in a section of LA. known as Watts and while many of those around him succumbed to drugs or crime, he went on to become an All American Basketball player at UCLA and later an all-star forward with the New York Knicks from 1956-1962. When he retired from basketball he purchased an auto dealership in LA, married a gynecologist and had four kids. He could have spent the rest of his life in comfort but one day he heard a voice which turned him in another direction. Within two months he left his business, enrolled in a seminary and was later ordained a minister. He then established a church and leased a group of buildings that had been part of a defense plant in a rough part of LA.
He takes in as many as 150 children after school and during the summer, and he's obtained computers and volunteers to help the kids develop skills. He's paid for all this almost completely with personal funds. In the leased buildings he fashioned six gymnasiums with smaller-than-usual basket rims and no backboards. "This is to make the kids concentrate on shooting," Naulls said. "The same concentration can be applied to school work, can be applied to anything else they want to do." Thanks, Willie, for noticing what needed doing -- and doing it.Posted on July 12, 2004 6:45 PM