Kyle Anderson was close friends growing up with Paul Kim. The two would play basketball together in courts in North Bergen, Fairview, and Cliffside Park.
“He was one of my closest friends,” said Anderson, the former St. Anthony All-American who just completed his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. “He meant so much to me. He was always in charge.”
So last fall, when Kim committed suicide by leaping off the George Washington Bridge, Anderson was very upset.
“I was so totally devastated,” Anderson said. “We had a game that night and I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t think of anything else. It was one of the worst days of my life. I don’t ever want to feel that kind of pain ever again.”
Anderson has no idea why his friend took that fateful leap, but he would like to prevent others from making that drastic step.
That’s why Anderson helped to organize the first-annual Celebrate Life Day Basketball Clinic and Tournament at School No. 6 in Cliffside Park, a place where Anderson and Kim frequently played together.
“I always wanted to be a big factor in the community,” Anderson said. “I know how that felt and I want to do my part to prevent that from happening again. I wanted to honor my friend and give back to the community in a good way.”
Despite the rain that fell in the morning hours, Anderson, his dad, former Ferris head basketball coach Kyle Anderson Sr., his brother, former North Bergen and UConn grid standout Jamar Wikins and a host of others helped to run a clinic for kids in the sixth through eighth grades.
The kids got the chance to enhance their shooting, dribbling and passing drills under the guidance of Anderson, as well as his college buddies from UCLA Jordan Adams, who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, and Tony Parker, who still plays at UCLA.
No, it was not the Tony Parker who is Anderson’s teammates with the Spurs. Some of the youngsters thought that the All-Star Parker, the former husband of actress Eva Longoria, was going to make an appearance, but it was actually the UCLA version.
“Still, how many kids get a chance to work with two NBA players on a Saturday morning?” Wilkins asked. “Nothing beats that.”
Nearly 100 youngsters participated in the clinic.
“It was a good turnout,” Wikins said. “We had kids learning from five different stations.”
The kids all received T-shirts and were treated to picnic lunch, as volunteers cooked on several different grills.
“I loved coming here to play,” Anderson said. “And you could see that the kids loved being out here.”
After the clinic was over, there was a high school basketball tournament that was held featuring teams from St. Anthony, North Bergen, Memorial and Cliffside Park. On Friday night, there was a men’s tournament that was held to help raise additional funds for the cause.
“My brother did an excellent job of organizing this,” Anderson said. “It means a lot to me that the kids have someone positive they can look up to and they can take heed in what I’m saying to them.”
“It was a six-week labor of love, a good side job,” Wilkins said.
Proceeds from the day-long event, which also featured rides and games of chance for the younger folk, all went to the cause, FriendsForPaulKim.org.
Anderson hopes that the fundraising efforts will establish mandatory high school seminars for New Jersey athletes to focus on suicide prevention and awareness.
Ed Modica spoke of his efforts to try to have the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act signed into law, named after the Northern Highlands and University of Pennsylvania track and field standout who tragically committed suicide last year. The former overall state champion in the 800-meter run, Holleran was only 19 years old.
Modica, Holleran’s former teacher at Northern Highlands, helped establish the Madison Holleran Foundation after the tragedy, trying to help students who suffer from depression and may be contemplating suicide.
Paul Kim was a student at Rutgers University’s School of Arts and Sciences when he rode his bicycle to the GWB and jumped off the bridge. His body was recovered three days later.
“There are a lot of people who are affected by suicide,” Wilkins said. “It’s an issue that not a lot of people want to talk about, but it’s obviously important. We hope we were able to raise awareness and share what happened. We want to prevent it from happening ever again.”
“We wanted to raise some money and some awareness,” Anderson said. “It really was important to me to get the young kids involved. I thought this would be a good idea and it turned out to be that.”
Anderson said that he enjoyed his first year in the NBA, playing with one of the league’s best franchises and arguably the league’s best coach in Gregg Popovich.
“It was definitely a good learning experience for me,” Anderson said. “I learned a lot and got my feet wet. I got a chance to see where I’m at. Coach Popovich is a great coach and he’s tough, but he also put some confidence in me to let me play. I appreciate what they did for me this year.”
Anderson averaged 2.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and one assist per game in 33 games with the Spurs, also played 26 games with Austin in the NBA’s Developmental League, called the D-League, where he averaged 21.3 points per game, the highest scoring average of his basketball life.
“I never took going to the D-League as a punishment,” Anderson said. “It was all part of my learning.”
Anderson was only home for a brief stint, heading back to San Antonio for team workouts a day later. Still, it was good for “Lil’ Kyle” to be back home for a brief stint, making his presence felt for a good cause in the process.
“I love being back around here,” Anderson said. “There’s no place better.”…
If anyone is interested in helping the suicide prevention cause, they can log onto www.friendsofpaulkim.org or www.madisonholleranfoundation.org…
The 33rd annual New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Classic, now named after Giants Super Bowl MVP and current CBS Sports analyst Phil Simms, will be played Monday night at Kean University, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
Four Hudson County standouts will play in the game, namely Jonathan Castellano of Union City, Oliver Molano of Weehawken, Devell Jones of Lincoln and Daniel Clifford of Hoboken. The locals were participating in extensive practices over the weekend, including three practice sessions slated for Saturday.
We will have more about the All-Star experience with all four participants in next week’s editions…
Hoboken boxing trainer Butch Sanchez was totally befuddled with what happened to his fighter, North Bergen resident Roberto Garcia, in the week prior to what was going to be the biggest payday of his career.
Garcia was scheduled to take on undefeated Olympic champion Errol Spence, Jr. last week at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on NBC’s nationally televised Premier Champions card, but three days before the fight, Garcia started to act irrationally and then didn’t show up for the weigh-in.
Apparently, Garcia was not going to make the 147-pound weight restriction, so decided to simply leave Las Vegas with no warning, throwing away a $200,000 guaranteed pay check. Maybe Garcia realized that he didn’t have a chance to defeat the talented Spence and walked away instead of giving it a gallant try.
Sanchez believes that the 35-year-old Garcia will now have to retire from the sport. It’s a sad ending for someone who worked and trained so hard for the big-time opportunity…
When the Hudson Reporter’s All-Area baseball team was released two weeks ago, we failed to recognize the health battles that former Marist head coach Ron Hayward had to endure this season as well. Hayward almost died from a rare and severe kidney infection which was critical for someone who already has to endure home dialysis on a daily basis. Hayward should have been mentioned as a Coach of the Year along with Pat Laguerre of St. Peter’s Prep, Mike Hogan of Ferris and Buddy Matthews of St. Anthony, all of whom overcame health issues to return to the coaching lines this season. Hayward is right in the same dedicated class and his omission from that list was an oversight. My apologies to Hayward…–Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.