° empty

Lady Braves greet little tykes

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Cederik Jones, 5, drives past Alcorn State University basketball player Cortni Cooper as they play on the playground Wednesday afternoon at the Natchez Children’s Home. The women’s basketball team was at the home volunteering.

NATCHEZ — It was Zacaylin Taylor’s sixth birthday Wednesday and along with the $6 pinned to her shirt came a surprise from the Alcorn State women’s basketball team.

The Lady Braves visited the Natchez Children’s Home Wednesday with plans to read to the children and sing Christmas carols, but of course the day started out on the playground with some basketball.

“It’s so fun,” Taylor said about playing on the playground with the Alcorn players. “I like to swing on the swings a lot.”

While the girls played on the playground, most of the boys were on the court getting lessons from Alcorn players like senior Au-Juvan Andrews.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Aaliyah Proby, 3, laughs as Tierro Frost tickles her on the swings at the Natchez Children’s Home.

“These kids need people to be there for them,” Andrews said. “We’ve been doing different things like this since I was a freshman, and I love doing it. I love coming to work with them.”

Andrews has a 1-year-old son of her own and nephews the same age as many of the children at the Children’s Home, she said. Andrews enjoyed the books and Christmas carols, but especially enjoyed seeing the children play and be active, she said.

Assistant coach Joezon Darby said last week’s school shooting in Connecticut really stressed to his team the importance of giving back to children.

“We just want to be giving back and make a difference in young kids,” he said. “These ladies wanted to give back to the kids, and we found this wonderful place with all these wonderful people and came here.”

Darby said head coach Tonya Edwards has always stressed the importance of community service to her players, and the Alcorn girls decided a trip to the children’s home was something they wanted to do this holiday season.

Junior guard Tierro Frost said she understands the role collegiate athletes can play in the lives of young children.

“They look up to us,” she said. “And some of them may not be growing up in good homes, and we want to be out here and give them something to look forward to.”

Frost said her only concern was when the Lady Braves had to show off their vocal chords instead of their dribbling skills.

“I don’t know how to sing,” she said. “We like to keep ourselves on the court. We’re not singers.”

Friday the Lady Braves will be back on the court hosting Southeastern Louisiana University. Alcorn is 0-7 so far this year, but has faced some stiff competition to prepare for conference play, which begins Jan. 2.

“We’ve played good competition,” Andrews said. “And that is really helping us. We’ve played some big, physical teams like SMU and Tennessee. SWAC play is what is ultimately important and we are still learning to play with each other.”