Basketball Coach Loses Home Court, But Still In the Game
In the aftermath of Harvey, a Lone Star College coach keeps practice going for his players
BY VANESSA ONYEKWERE
Inside a small church gymnasium in North Houston, basketball players get ready for their 6 o’clock practice. The court has vintage wood floors and chairs in the place of bleachers. Two dozen boys and girls are warming up as Coach Melvin Marks sets up yellow and orange cones for practice drills.
This is not the coach’s original practice facility. Five months ago, Marks was working at a differenty facility, the fitness center at Lone Star College in Kingwood, which was flooded by sewer system damage caused by Harvey. Marks — also known as “Coach SloMo” — managed the center and coached the men’s basketball team there. In the flood, he lost ten years worth of videos of games, autographed jerseys and other memorabilia.
“But, you know, people lost their homes, so you can’t feel bad. But I did. I don’t want to be selfish but I did. I lost my stuff and then they said, ‘Well, you know, while you’re out, we’re going to pay you,” Marks explained. “I thought, ‘Oh God, thank you!’ And then they paid us. Then the next pay period, they said, ‘We’re not going to pay anymore.’”
Listen to Coach Marks' story
Since he’s technically still listed as an employee at the college, Marks can’t collect unemployment. But he found a part-time job delivering packages for Amazon. Despite his financial circumstances, Marks didn’t want his basketball team to go without practicing. A few of his student athletes were reaching out, insisting to get back in the gym. So Marks contacted a friend, who was able to provide a free place to practice at this church gym.
“Coach SloMo” — who has a shaved head and paces around with a whistle around his neck — arranges his work hours at Amazon so he can practice with his students in the evening. He said he feels like nobody cares about what has happened to him.
“I feel bitter, angry, upset, hurt — mostly probably hurt,” said Marks, who these days often worries about money. “I found myself in lines and in places that really humbled me, really made me have to check myself.”
At practice, Marks introduces his players to J.W. Weathersby, who has known Marks for four years when Marks gave him an opportunity to volunteer as a basketball coach. Coach is the type of person, Weathersby said, who would take kids off the street and show them what to do with a basketball.
“He has a heart for the kids,” Weathersby said. “He really, really truly cares about showing kids other ways of doing things and he does that through basketball by being a positive role model.”
Marks says he is not upset with anyone or Lone Star College in Kingwood, but wishes things worked out differently. He feels as though he represents the majority of people who were affected by Harvey but have not received any additional support.
Being with the kids at the basketball practice at the church gym, however, helps Coach Marks cope with his predicament and keeps him motivated.
Plus, he loves the game of basketball.
“You can see me in here. I’m happy. I love what I’m doing,” Marks said. “The Lord has put me in the place where my light and my salvation is.”
“Coach SloMo” is inspired by his student athletes to remain faithful to the game of basketball. (Photo: Vanessa Onyekwere | Next Generation Radio)