On the Martin Luther King Day holiday this past January 16, former Minneapolis City Conference basketball standouts Michael Walker (Roosevelt, 1994) and Tim Williams (Washburn, 1995) provided the platform for me to learn a couple of lessons about giving back by honoring those who have contributed to the betterment of the community and connecting the past to the present.
Walker and Williams are coordinators of the Dream Classic, an event that not only brings together some of the metro area’s top girls’ and boys’ basketball teams for friendly competition, but also provides a platform to honor one of history’s most dynamic leaders—Martin Luther King.
The genesis of the Dream Classic began with a game on Martin Luther King Day 14 years ago.
“In 2009, Reggie [Perkins] and I coached against one another on MLK day when he was at Washburn and I was at Prairie Seeds Academy, “Williams said. “I thought it was a pretty cool thing.”
Six years later, the Dream Classic had grown into an all-day event with boys’ and girls’ teams competing. “In 2015, me, Mike and Reggie sat down in the Roosevelt [High School] office and decided that we wanted to do this every year on a bigger stage.
Walker, who at the time was director of the Office of Black Student Achievement in Minneapolis Public Schools, helped to provide funding for the event, and it eventually took on a life of its own. The lessons learned involving the Dream Classic were countless.
When the Dream Classic went full force in 2015, Walker, currently an associate superintendent for the Minneapolis Public Schools, and Williams, owner of T.WILL Sports, Inc., a youth sports development company, acknowledged the need to honor someone who had made positive contributions to the community through the game of basketball.
“Every year we honor someone who has basically lived Dr. King’s dream, while making sure they are taking care of the next generation,” Walker said.
Kwame McDonald, Renee Pulley, Charles Hallman, Clyde Turner, Steve Floyd, Ed Owens, Terry Austin, and Dennis Stockmo have each been honored during the Dream Classic.
“It’s about giving back and giving people their flowers while they are still alive,” Walker emphasized.
The final game of this year’s Dream Classic was a girls’ contest between Minneapolis Roosevelt—with junior 1,000 point-plus scorers and cousins Olivia Wren and Jaida Walker—and Burnsville.
Michael Walker, an assistant coach at Roosevelt who is also Jaida Walker’s father, acknowledged that both reached the mark during a game against Richfield. The last 1,000-point scorers at Roosevelt were Suriya McGuire and current Teddies head coach Tyesha Wright during the 2010 season.
This year, Roosevelt won the game on a buzzer-beater by Wren, capping a 34-point performance.
The ninth annual Dream Classic was a success, and Walker reinforced the Dream Classic mission. “We really want to highlight the service that MLK provided and bring people together through basketball while teaching lessons,” Walker said with conviction.
Mission accomplished. Lessons learned.
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