By Naimah shaw

Will Avery is propelled by Faith and basketball. Whether it is his own potential he is challenging or that of another avid young baksetball player, Avery gets up and trains everyday and spends an average of seven hours on the court dedicated to his sport.  Returning to Augusta where Avery attended Westside High School, he looks back on his childhood and notes that basketball was always his constant, even when he didn’t have much. The adrenaline that came from playing, even at the tender age of six could not be mistaken. Avery notes that his love for basketball started from the time he could “touch a ball.” Avery reminisces that he knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a professional basketball player and says, “I would stay in tune to what was going on at every level. From waking up early to get The Augusta Chronicle and reading high box scores from the night before to watching college and pro games religiously every night.” Avery credits his initial attraction to the sport to his parents who helped foster his love noting, “Growing up I would watch both of my parents play basketball whether in the neighborhood or at a gym or some kind of industrial or co-ed league.”

After high school, Avery went on to attend Duke University where he played college basketball before spending 12 years in the NBA and abroad in Europe. Avery lived in Spain, France, Greece, Israel, the Ukraine, Turkey and Poland pursuing his passion. Receiving  prestigious recognition is something Avery prides himself on but even at the pinnacle of his career, his heart’s desire was always to return to Augusta and mentor children whose talents are hidden in the burden of unfortunate circumstances. Personal incentives for returning home also included his most prized possessions, his wife Chasity and daughters Yasmine and Autumn.

Although Avery signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, his all time favorite team was the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls. “I watched MJ battle adversity with early playoff exits to persevere and overcome the physical battles with the Pistons and Knicks to lead his team to multiple championships.”

Overcoming adversity through faith and persistence is the epitome of everything Avery hopes to instill in the thousand plus children he has monitored and trained. Since returning home to Augusta, Avery has worked with children on both a group and individual basis by hosting workshops, camps and team competitions including several schools and even the after school programs at Episcopal Day School and Westminster.

When asked how basketball transforms the lives of children, Avery adamantly notes that work ethic, punctuality, team communication and camaraderie are the hallmarks of the sport. “My basketball camps have been a place where kids have met new friends from different cultures and backgrounds, gained self-confidence, learned to work hard and also to encourage others. Basketball brings people together. I have built several lifelong relationships through the game of basketball.” One prominent example of a transformation was a kid with whom Avery had the privilege of working with that decided to use the life lessons learned he learned with Avery and basketball to pursue a career in finance. Basketball was the vehicle through which this  particular youth attained a free education and that education combined with those life lessons became the foundation for his new and thriving career. As mentor and coach, Avery was cheering him on from the sidelines, watching with pride as his student’s success story unfolded.

Avery notes that his best quality is his big heart and explains, “I care a lot and will do anything that I can to help someone. I am a very loyal person and I’m a very hard worker.” When asked how he inspires and motivates children Avery says, “I push them to get the most out of them with hope of reaching their potential. I want them to come in the gym and be better than they were the last time.” Avery says he constantly reminds them why they are in the gym and what their purpose is, being sure to remind them that education should be first and foremost in their lives. Avery encourages campers not to waste time so they can maximize their repetitions as “every rep is important.” Inspiration is also given to those wanting to play at the next level by telling them about his personal journey along the way and reminding them that he was once in their shoes.

Avery’s love for the sport transcends into all other areas of his life as well and he coaches his own daughter who is always quick to challenge him to a game. Building relationships with the children he coaches is so fulfilling that Avery almost never takes a day off.

His life’s mantra and final message to the youth is “Commit to the lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed”.

This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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