Former area standouts give back at Wildwood
Pinellas County, particularly South St. Petersburg, has produced some top-notch college athletes in the past few years. Many came home during their break and talked to children at Wildwood Recreation Center about the importance of academics and hard work.
The event, held Christmas Eve, was put together by Lakewood boys basketball coach Anthony Lawrence Sr. There were 13 former area standouts in basketball, football and track who made an appearance.
“You hear so much about all the negative stuff that goes on around here,” Lawrence Sr. said. “We have some unbelievable athletes that are doing great and nobody ever really hears about that. I wanted to do this to shine a light on that and show these kids there are positive role models they look up to.”
There were seven former area basketball players who came to Wildwood: Jacobi Boykins (Lakewood/Louisiana Tech), Barry Brown (Gibbs/Kansas State), Quincy Ford (Gibbs/Northeastern), Dayon Griffin (St. Petersburg/Louisiana Tech), Anthony Lawrence Jr., (Lakewood/Miami), Dallas Moore (Boca Ciega/North Florida) and Kenneth Smith (Boca Ciega/Louisiana Tech).
“It’s always positive to come back for the kids,” Brown said. “We never really had anybody come back like this when I was younger and tell me what to do and how to act to get to where I needed to be.”
There also were five former football stars: Lakewood’s Shaquille Griffin (UCF) and twin brother Shaquem (UCF), Ryan Davis (Auburn) and Tyriek Hopkins (Florida), as well as Ryan Green (St. Peterburg Catholic/FSU).
“It’s always good to come back and give back to St. Petersburg,” Davis said. “There’s so much stuff going on, bad things happening around St. Petersburg. These kids need to see there are people who are doing good things around the community, and there’s a way to do something positive and make it out of the city.”
Former Lakewood track star Kala Funderbuk, an NCAA champion in the 400 meters at FSU, recently graduated from college and came to the event before heading to Europe to run on the professional circuit.
“I’m the girl here, so I’m hoping to reach out to more girls and show them there’s a lot more to do and a lot more places to see,” Funderburk said. “Hopefully, one day they can come back and do the same thing that I’m doing today.”
Lawrence Sr. said he is trying to make this an annual event.
"I hope it becomes bigger and better," he said.