Although an assistant basketball coach at a Division I-A college was a guest speaker at Harlem High Schools' opening-day pep rally, the students didn't get the pep talk they might have expected.
Nicolette Samuels, 17, of Harlem (left) and her mother Velvetta (right) talk with Willie Reese, assistant men's basketball coach at Georgia Tech. Reeses attended Harlem's opening-day prep rally.
Photo by Quandra Collins
Instead of hearing advice about how to excel on the court, Willie Reese, the assistant men's basketball coach at Georgia Tech, gave students a motivational message for the future.
"Get your fundamentals down," he told a packed gymnasium of students, faculty and staff on the first day of school. "Everybody can be very successful in life, if you get an education.
"If you've noticed, I haven't talked much about basketball," said the former Yellow Jacket basketball player, stressing that the likelihood of getting a basketball scholarship is not that good. "It's very hard to get to that point."
Reese, a resident of Jonesboro, Ga., joined former head coach Bobby Cremins' staff in 1999 and stayed on when Paul Hewitt took over as head coach in 2000.
Reese previously coached at Landmark Christian Academy in Fairburn, Ga., where he took the program from a 3-18 record to a 24-3 mark in his first year. He compiled a .713 winning percentage at Landmark and led the cross country teams to state titles in 1995 and 1996, earning him state coach of the year honors.
Before becoming a coach, Reese attended Georgia Tech, where he won four letters as a forward for the Yellow Jackets before graduating in 1989.
For the second year, students at Harlem kicked off the first day of school with a pep rally, and they were challenged to excel in their academic careers.
"While you're here, work on your education. Once it's in your brain, it can't be taken away from you," Reese said.
Reese said although academic excellence is a priority, students should take advantage of some of the best years of their lives.
"Enjoy your high school days, because they don't come around again."
In addition to the rally, the program included a musical selection, a video clip of Georgia Tech basketball games and guest speaker Darla Marburger, the deputy assistant secretary for policy for the U.S. Department of Education.
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