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Tyrone Grant, St. John's University

Tyrone Grant in streetball action.<em> Photo by Damion Reid <a href=""></a></em>
Tyrone Grant in streetball action. Photo by Damion Reid

The Red Storm took the city by storm in the late 1990s, and Brooklyn forward Tyrone Grant embodied the rugged spirit of the team. Averaging 10.5 points / 8.6 rebounds and tons of hustle per game, the 6'7" Grant didn't back down to challenges. 

At St. John's, Grant experienced lows: 3 head coaches (Mahoney, Fraschilla, and Jarvis) and highs: a top-10 ranking, and an Elite Eight appearance in 1999. After a successful professional career in Italy, Greece, and other countries, Grant returned home to give back to New York City's inner city youth.

This past spring, he embarked on that goal. Grant started Team First, a non-profit to help bridge the achievement gap, the disparity in educational outcomes between students from different socioeconomic groups.

From the Red Storm Sports release back in May:

The organization seeks to solve the academic achievement gap in New York City by emotionally, physically and intellectually connecting youth between the ages of six and 18 with successful, young volunteer mentors who have accomplished careers in a number of fields, while balancing a heavy interest in basketball.

The connection is personal. "I was once one of the kids I'm trying to help now - lost and not disciplined," Grant said to Rumble in the Garden. "I learned life skills at SJU. I learned to take care of your responsibilities. SJU gave me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, different family structures."

His time in Queens gave him a focus for his skills and energies. And like so many, going to college expanded his horizons - reminding him how much he wished he'd known about life before going to school. 

Former Wagner star and friend Frantz Pierre-Louis bumped into Grant at a basketball event a few years ago, and brought up the idea of creating a grassroots basketball program.

Grant was intrigued. "I went back on that grassroots scene that I've been away from for 13 years and did some homework. After 2 months of going to different events, training sessions, speaking with parents and kids, I was disgusted about what I saw and heard," said Grant. The kids were focused on the wrong aspects of success. Grant wanted to add an educational component to the organization to "guide these young athletes in the right direction."

Grant's Team First organization has been active this summer, getting professionals to impart real-world knowledge to children between 6 and 18. Former basketball stars from St. John's and the professional ranks impart life and basketball lessons to youth via clinics and seminars in Brooklyn.

"Education... is more important than any sports league out there. We will continue to promote the love of a sport but we will put it in its proper perspective," Grant adds.

Find out more, get involved, or to donate contact Team First.

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