LEON POWE'S wonderful championship summer is over. It seems like just yesterday that the Boston Celtics won the NBA title, but Powe is already back in New England working out in preparation for the start of training camp Sept. 30.
But while he was back in Oakland over the summer, basking in the glow of being on top of the basketball world, Powe and his longtime guardian, Bernard Ward, also spent considerable time plotting out the future as well.
Not the basketball future so much, which at long last finally seems relatively secure. Powe is entering his third season, a contract year in which he should set himself up financially for life if he even approaches the kind of season he had in 2007-2008.
With that in mind, he's also looking hard at a future plan that gives back to the troubled community from which both he and Ward emerged against long odds. In short, Powe and Ward want to improve those odds for future generations of troubled or impoverished youth.
The two men hope to jointly set up a foundation that helps inner-city foster-care children and teens make successes of their own lives. The event Ward staged on Powe's behalf in late August — the "Powe Folks" Basketball Camp at Merritt College — was essentially a precursor to bigger plans down the road.
"Leon basically wants (the foundation) to be like Magic Johnson's before he retires," Ward said Monday. "We want to start a mentoring/tutoring service, not only for foster kids, but all kids that may be having issues in life. Within the next year, that's our goal, trying to figure out how we can do that."
At the recent basketball camp, which was open to all youths basically for free, Powe and Ward were intent on offering instruction that went far beyond the realm of proper layup form or how to block out. They had a spokesman from admissions and records at Cal come talk about preparing for college. Former Oakland NBA standout Brian Shaw's wife, Nikki, a professional chef, gave a lecture on nutrition. Oakland hip-hop sensation Too Short made an appearance to talk about music. So did a local judge to discuss the law and the consequences of crime.
Not your average hoops camp, in other words. But that's exactly the concept the two men have in mind for their non-profit foster child foundation. They tentatively have a name, Fresh Start Family Services, and they hope to find young men and women who were much like themselves and give them a direction and a purpose for successful, responsible adulthood.
"Once kids turn 18, they're out of the foster-care system," Ward said. "So we want to help make sure they can get their high school diploma, teach them how to do bank accounts, how to look for places to stay, help them get started with work internships, all sorts of things."
Of course, this is the personal role Ward served for Powe through his teenage years, giving him direction not only in basketball but his life. The two still speak daily by phone, and Powe spent the summer living with Ward. So they had plenty of time to talk about their dream project.
Ward, himself a miracle survivor of the Oakland streets, achieved his own recent milestone when he received his master's degree in psychology from John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley. He currently works for a foster-care agency as a social worker and advises all manner of youth, whether they are future athletes or not. But he has provided counsel in recent months to former Cal standout DeVon Hardin, USF forward Dior Lowhorn and McClymonds product Frank Otis, now at SMU.
"I get calls from parents and kids all the time ... I mean daily," he said. "I can't even put a number on it. I try to help everybody I can. I don't turn anybody down. If I feel like I can help them in any way I can, I'm going to do that."
So is Powe, who keeps applying the pressure on Ward to firm up plans for the foundation.
"He calls me every day about it, man," Ward said. "He'll say, 'B, where we at? How's it going?' I know what he's thinking, that if he touches just one person like I touched him, and if that person goes on to touch someone else, the world will be a better place."
Contact Carl Steward at firstname.lastname@example.org.