SACRAMENTO -- Changing the culture of an NBA team is no small task. It takes dedication and a series of right moves. Over the past few seasons, the Sacramento Kings have actively sought out players with a history of leadership behind the scenes. They’ve had some hits and a miss or two, but the addition of Garrett Temple was nothing short of a home run.
The veteran wing stood in front of a crowd of student athletes at Sacramento Charter High School on Wednesday evening. He wasn’t there to talk about sports, although the topic came up more than once. He was there to adopt the school, to become a mentor and in some instances, a financial backer for the charter school.
“We’re going to focus on leadership and how they can be better leaders on their team, in their communities and in their classrooms,” Temple said before taking his place in front of a room of approximately 250 students.
Temple didn’t have a program like this growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In fact, he didn’t have a lot of the same issues that face the students at a school like Sac High.
“I came up, I wasn’t poor, I wasn’t underprivileged, I was good,” Temple said. “But basically everyone of my teammates that I played with in AAU came from a less fortunate situation.”
He had active parents, including his father Collis, a former NBA player, who acted as a coach and mentor for other students in the community. Collis Temple became the first African American basketball player at LSU and his personal story of triumph is something that his son Garrett uses as a guiding light.
“Guys looked up to coaches that they had, like my father was a coach throughout the community,” Temple added. “That safe haven on the basketball court, that one gym that was in the community, going there for practices. If you had a guy that was around that had been through it and could talk to you about some of the things in life that you would face, that’s all we had to for guys that didn’t have a father figure.”
Temple held a townhall style meeting with the students, fielding questions about a wide range of topics. The conversation was off the record, but there were plenty of good moments where Temple shared from his personal experiences.
In his first season with the Kings, Temple was named Teammate of the Year. Not only has he performed well on the court, but his mentorship behind the scenes goes well beyond the court.
On Wednesday evening, the eight-year NBA veteran brought along rookies Frank Mason III and Harry Giles. The two served food and then sat with the students as Temple spoke. Following the conversation, the students swarmed the three players to shake hands and snap pictures.
The Kings’ starting small forward has committed himself as a mentor to Sacramento High for this season and plans on having a few more events with the students during the school year. His hope is to promote education and leadership, not act as an athletic advisor.
“Just trying to reach kids in there place and try and build a rapport with them so we can try to create more leaders in situations like they are right now,” Temple said.
Temple is in year two of his three-year deal he signed with the Kings. He has a player option for next season, but Sacramento would love to make the 31-year-old a long-term fixture with the franchise.
He isn’t the only player jumping into the community. Point guard George Hill has an event coming up in the coming weeks, as does Vince Carter. The veteran core of the team is establishing a path for the team’s 10 young players to follow both on and off the court as they grow through their NBA careers.