Ferrell returns home with message for kids

April 22, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

Before yesterday, Donta Dunlap didn't know much about Duane Ferrell, which is understandable, since Ferrell, a fifth-year veteran of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, isn't as well-known as, say, Michael Jordan or even Ferrell's teammate, Dominique Wilkins.

"I just heard of him, but I think I've seen him play before," said Donta, 13, a seventh-grader at Dunbar Middle School in East Baltimore.

But after Ferrell, the former Calvert Hall star, dropped by the Cecil-Kirk Elementary School in his old neighborhood yesterday for a rally sponsored by the city education and recreation departments, Donta got the sense that he and the basketball star shared something more than just a love of the game.

Ferrell, appearing in town before the Hawks met the Washington Bullets last night at the Capital Centre, brought with him some snazzy T-shirts, good cheer and the message that staying in school and away from drugs was definitely the way to go.

Donta, who received a plaque saluting his ability in the classroom and on the basketball court, got Ferrell's message loud and clear.

"I definitely want to stay in school and be drug-free. I don't want to end up on the streets," said Donta.

Ferrell, who is enjoying his best NBA season, scoring 10.2 points a game in a reserve role, knows how difficult surviving and succeeding will be for Donta.

Ferrell, 28, grew up on Aisquith Street, just down the street from Cecil-Kirk Elementary, in a different time with far fewer disruptions than kids like Donta receive.

"Today's kids have a lot of time on their hands and they get involved with the wrong things," said Ferrell. "I was playing basketball and it lasted most of the summer and it kept me involved. The guys who ran the [recreational] organization were involved and very disciplined and made sure we stayed out of trouble."

Ferrell said that the children who grow up today near Cecil-Kirk, which sits near East 22nd and Kirk streets, have the hurdles of crack, violence and social ills to overcome.

But they also have things at their disposal that Ferrell didn't, such as a partnership of the city's schools and recreation department.

"Surroundings and the economy make it more difficult for kids to make it than when I was a kid here," said Ferrell. "But when you have people like the people down here at Cecil-Kirk and other recreation centers who are trying to stay on top of the kids, that's a big bonus."

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