NBA-TV to shine spotlight on Simmons College of Kentucky basketball
On Tuesday night, the NBA will shine a light on Louisville, covering a college basketball program where the coach bluntly tells his players they're not going to the league.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When NBA TV covers Kentucky Tuesday night, it won't be the Louisville Cardinals or the Kentucky Wildcats on the main stage. Instead, it's the Falcons flying high from Simmons College of Kentucky.
"They're not doing this for money," said Joe Underhill, senior researcher and producer for NBA TV. "They're doing this to help people, so it's perfect for the show."
The cable series "Beyond the Paint" caught wind of the rebirth of Simmons Basketball in 2016 under the direction of Butch Beard and Jerry Eaves. Both Louisville greats played and coached in the NBA and now mentor student athletes from the small, historically black college to "win at the game of life."
"They're coming in, looking for an opportunity," said Jerry Eaves, coach of the Simmons College of Kentucky men's basketball team. "And have I had to make some mental adjustments with them? Yes, because they come in saying, 'Oh, I want to play overseas.' Not going to happen. 'I want to play in the NBA.' Not going to happen. It's a needle in a haystack that we have to stop trying to pursue, but you can be a lawyer and a doctor. We've got to get along to being vital citizens in this community."
Eaves coaches the men's team and serves as Simmons College's athletic director. Beard helps with the men and serves as head coach for the Falcon women.
It may be the coach's appeal bringing the big network cameras but Eaves hopes NBA-TV will leave sharing the stories of the students.
"Every day, I get up at 5:30 in the morning to get ready for practice," said Jalen Baker, a sophomore and forward for the team. "After practice, I go straight to class...go to work, go home, do my homework. take a shower, wake up, do it all over again."
There is not one scholarship athlete on the men's or women's basketball team. They're all walk-ons.
"Probably 70 percent of my team would not be in school if it were not for Simmons," Eaves said.
They walk from places like Victory Park and Beecher Terrance -- some of the highest crime locations and poorest pockets in the city of Louisville.
"If they're in the game, this can happen to anyone, and they're not bad people," Eaves said.
Eaves is candid about the struggle. This week Former Falcons player Keontez Malone pleaded guilty in connection to a marijuana deal that turned into murder.
"The game -- the street -- is a stronger influence on African American males than the school system and the parenting -- and it's got to change," Eaves said.
The rebirth of Simmons basketball was the brainchild of the college's President, Dr. Kevin W. Cosby. He viewed basketball as the bait to mentor players who otherwise may not attend school.
Baker said, " It's strict on the court and off the court. He's (Eaves) like a father figure, he keeps us all in shape."
"It's a good story to tell because obviously everyone knows athletes for their accomplishments on the field...but this is off the field, and how they're impacting people," Underhill said.
The Falcons tip-off tonight is against Crown College out of Powell, Tennessee, at 7 p.m. in the Family Life Center at St. Stephen Church.
Underhill said the Simmons edition of "Beyond the Paint" is scheduled to air next month.
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