by Malik Vincent
A strong work ethic is what’s going to get you ahead in life moving forward, keynote speaker and former Pitt basketball star Jason Matthews shared with the student athletes being honored at the annual New Pittsburgh Courier All-City Luncheon.
The June 4 event, held at the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood, honored 133 athletes who competed in football, boys and girls basketball, as well as track and field in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
“One of the challenges that I see with the 17- 22-year-old age group is the feeling of entitlement,” said Matthews, a 1991 Pitt graduate and native of Los Angeles. “During my high school career, I was told in order to play there and in college I had to shoot 500 jump shots, 200 free throws, and maintain a 3.0 GPA. That work ethic helped me make it through college and have a successful business career.”
The smooth shooting Matthews was a three-time All Big East performer, whose three-point percentage mark still stands in the record books today.
“I graduated 20 years ago and my record is still there,” he said. “That is telling me that young people today aren’t working hard enough.”
Darnell Dinkins, a former pro tight end who played with four different NFL teams, served as the event’s Master of Ceremonies.
He, too, spoke about the hard work that it requires to be successful in not only the realm of athletics, but in everyday life.
“It’s not just important to work the muscles in your body,” he said. “But it’s also important to work the muscle (inside of the head) that stretches six inches between both ears.”
Dinkins, a former All-City performer at Schenley, took his talents to the University of Pittsburgh, where he obtained a degree in criminology. Despite, having an extended NFL career in which he won a Super Bowl championship with New Orleans in 2010, he stressed the importance of achieving all one can on and off the field.
He said it took him four attempts to pass the SAT’s in high school. He also talked about the adversities he faced academically in school and how he worked hard in the gym into the wee hours of the morning to qualify—physically—for the competition in the NFL.
Chuck Sanders Charities was the platinum sponsor for the event. Other sponsors were: Port Authority of Allegheny County, Heinz Corp., Jim Rice Enterprises, the Trolley Station Oral History Center and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“The All-City Luncheon is something we do because we think it’s very important to acknowledge the City youth for the positive things they have accomplished, “ said Ulish Carter, managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier. “Thank God for Chuck Sanders who stepped up again this year to sponsor the luncheon. Even though we haven’t gotten the full participation from parents, schools and coaches that we would like, on the whole most have responded positively. We were extremely happy that Pittsburgh School Superintendent Linda Lane, PhD, participated this year. She presented the awards to the students. This is the first time a superintendent has attended.”
Sanders, a native of Homewood, starred at Penn Hills High School then moved on to being one of the top running backs at Slippery Rock University before playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL.
“Honestly, it’s huge,” Sanders said about having the event in Homewood and honoring the kids. “I’m so blessed to be home. I literally got goose bumps thinking of being in the coliseum and Homewood and being able to see these kids. You look back and remember when you used to look up to who used to inspire you. Anytime I get an opportunity to support (City League youth), it’s a no-brainer.”
Sanders was raised in Homewood but his parents moved to Penn Hills when he was a teen. He said he cried when his parents moved out of Homewood.
Perry’s standout wide receiver, Devin Ghafoor—a 2011 first-team All-City football selection—hopes to emulate that same success as he’ll move on to a full football scholarship at Edinboro University in the fall.
Statistically, he had one of the best years in the league with 48 receptions for 750 yards—10 of which went for touchdowns. On defense, he also enjoyed a good campaign with six interceptions plus one that went for a score.
“I’m looking forward to, hopefully, getting some good playing time (in college),” Ghafoor said. “I had a great senior year at Perry. We started out training hard and we did well (all the way from the preseason).”
Junior guard Justin Dobbs helped lead his city boys basketball champion Allderdice team to a second round game in the PIAA playoffs for the first time in his career. Named this year’s boys basketball All-City Most Valuable Player, he was the league’s leading scorer, averaging over 15 points a game on the season.
“Last summer I was basically just playing basketball and sleeping,” Dobbs said. “I knew we’d lost a lot of people after last season, so I realized there was a lot that I had to pick up, but we still had some people coming back. I feel like there are a lot of people on our side, so we had to go out there and win for them, too.”
Janay Bottoms led Allderdice to the girls basketball title in 2011, as well. She was crowned the Most Valuable Player, in addition, to a unanimous first-team selection, at the luncheon.
“I worked so hard to get here,” Bottoms said. “It was unexpected that I would be honored. After not winning the title the year before, I wanted to do everything I could for my team to come back and win this year.
Four coaches were acknowledged as Coaches of the Year in 2010-2011, by the New Pittsburgh Courier.
Since taking over the program in 2001, Perry’s head football coach Bill Gallagher won his sixth title for the Commodores this past season. The team went a perfect 11-0 in City League play.
“I’ve seen these kids, after football, excel in the classroom and excel in other sports,” he said. “They’re such a well-rounded group of kids. I wish (my seniors) all the best of luck in whatever they do.”
Carrick boys basketball coach, Walt Malinski, enjoyed his first selection as Coach of the Year. His Raiders were one of the city’s most improved teams and made a rare appearance in the post-season in 2011, despite losing their leading scorer, guard Jordan Wilson to a season-ending leg injury.
Dave Walchesky from Allderdice and Phyllis Jones from Westinghouse were honored as co-Coaches of the Year in girls basketball. Jones couldn’t attend the event due to her daughter’s high school graduation, but her other daughter Denise Jones accepted the honor for her.
“This is one of the most important recognition events we do each year,” said Stephan Broadus, Courier assistant to the publisher.
“It’s an honor to be able to showcase these talented young men and women as they move on in their academic and athletic careers.”