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Distinguished Speaker Series to feature Coach Ken Carter

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Coach Ken Carter
Coach Ken Carter

Former high school basketball coach Ken Carter will be featured in Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Distinguished Speaker Series Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Occhiato University Center Ballroom.

Carter coached basketball for more than 15 years and has inspired many young individuals to reach their fullest potential.

He made headlines for locking his entire undefeated basketball team out of the school gym at Richmond High School in 1999 because of poor academic results and broken behavioral contracts.

Initially outraged at Carter’s actions, parents of Carter’s players and the community eventually changed their opinions and praised him for his determination in striving for success in his players, not only on the court but also in the classroom.

News of Carter’s experience prompted letters from supporters all over the country. He also received calls from CNN, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine and USA Today.

His strategy proved successful when every one of his players at Richmond, where he coached from 1997 to 2002, graduated from high school.

Carter’s story served as the basis for the 2005 film “Coach Carter,” where he was portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. The cast also featured actors Rob Brown and Channing Tatum, and singer Ashanti. The film stressed professional ethics, academics and athletics, and it received positive critical reviews. It grossed more than $76 million worldwide.

Currently, Carter is a successful author and speaker. He is also the founder and chairman of the Coach Ken Carter Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers mentoring programs for minority youths.

Trace Gray, a junior at CSU-Pueblo, majoring in exercise science, health promotion and recreation said that it was a good thing that Carter emphasized academics to his student athletes.

“Everybody knows that as a student-athlete, being a student comes first,” Gray said.

Gray said he would be very disappointed as an athlete if he was in a situation like Carter’s lockout, but he would understand it.

“Academics always come before sports,” Gray said.

Gray is a linebacker on CSU-Pueblo’s national championship football team. He said that education plays an important role in achieving success, and he is planning to attend Coach Carter’s program.

“Yeah, I am very excited for the event, it would be cool to see,” Gray said.

The Office of Student Engagement and Leadership hosts the Distinguished Speaker Series each year and previous guests include Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, Dr. Juan Andrade and Lt. Dan Choi, and performances by Cirque Zuma Zuma and Su Teatro.

“A distinguished speaker is somebody notable who comes and gives inspirational speeches to our students in order to guide them into the right direction through their college journeys,” explained Kelli Gawel, a student employee in the SEAL office.

Admission to the program is free to all CSU-Pueblo students and to the public.

More information regarding the Distinguished Speaker Series is available in the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership located in the lower level of the OUC, room 006.