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Pistons pass life lessons to Sashabaw kids

TJ, from Detroit Piston's Flight Crew, and Sarah Rooks. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
March 30, 2011 - Sashabaw Middle School students' eyes widened as they glimpsed at Coach Aaron Smith's championship ring on Friday afternoon.

It was during the Homework Before Hoops assembly they learned how important it is to be a good person and put homework first.

Coach Aaron Smith, director of Year Round Hoops for the Detroit Pistons, shared his story beginning when he was a kid and continuing to get better at basketball..

"I would take my Piston's basketball and go outside," he said. "I would always be caught by my mom while trying to sneak out."

She would look at him and say, school comes first, sending him to his schoolbooks. One day she asked Smith, his brother and his friend what they wanted to be when they grew up.

While the other two announced jobs as a teacher and firefighter, Smith gave a Piston's pose and said he was going to be a member of the Detroit Pistons.

He was laughed at but his dream wasn't diminished as continued aiming for his goal and continuing his studies.

Smith became closer to his dream playing basketball at the University of Michigan. After graduating he waited for the Pistons to call him.

He looked around at the students, "but after a week and a half still no phone call. If you have a dream, don't let it stop you."

The next step he took was to write a letter to the Detroit Pistons.

"The phone still didn't ring," he told the engaged students.

But a few weeks later, it did. It was the Detroit Pistons calling for him.

"It changed my life," he said, adding they thanked him for the letter before saying he was not good enough. "I was crushed."

But the Detroit Pistons did make phone calls to his mom, teachers and coaches to ask what kind of student he was in school.

"If your dream job called your teachers and your mom, what would they say," Smith asked the crowd.

His teachers told the Pistons he always said "please" and "thank you" and his mom said he was studious. Then, they offered him a position to work for the Detroit Pistons.

Smith showed one of his three championship rings, showing what his dream, being a good person and being a good student had led to.

"The ring represents me," he said. "Since I was a kid I wanted to be a member of the Detroit Pistons. Now I have three championship rings. Don't let anyone laugh at your dreams."

The students then were treated to a dance competition with Hooper, the Detroit Piston's mascot, and the Flight Crew showed off their trampoline dunk tricks.

"We try to use basketball as a tool to get the kids engaged and throw in a message here and there," said Smith. "The main message being a lot of people want to play in the NBA but realistically not a lot of people can. There are other ways of being part of the team just by getting your homework done."

Homework Before Hoops visits over 80 schools per year from the elementary level up to the high school level and is in its fourth year and also holds school fundraisers.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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