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Jeff Benedict

Sports Illustrated



Jabari Parker Is...

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Sports Illustrated
Published: May 21, 2012
By: Jeff Benedict


THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYER SINCE LEBRON JAMES, BUT THERE'S SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT TO HIM THAN INSTANT NBA STARDOM: HIS FAITH



Jake Flannigan filmed every in-state basketball game played by Chicago's Simeon Career Academy during the 2011--12 season. He saw Simeon's star forward, Jabari Parker, score 40 points one day and block 12 shots another. But his lasting impression of Jabari was formed when the camera was off. After a home game in which Jabari barely missed a triple double, Flannigan, a producer at Comcast SportsNet Chicago, waited outside the locker room for an interview. Jabari never appeared. He had used another exit to return to the court for the jayvee game and was behind the bench passing out water.

"The other varsity players were out in the hallway, talking to girls by the snack stand," says Flannigan. "The best player in the city was being the water boy for the jayvee. It's hard to root against a kid like that. He's on top of the world, but he's incredibly humble."

 

To Serve or Not To Serve?

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Sports Illustrated
Published: May 21, 2012
By: Jeff Benedict, J.J. Feinauer


This summer North Carolina freshman Stilman White and Harvard freshman Corbin Miller will, like thousands of Mormon Division I student-athletes before them, begin serving two-year missions for their church, during which they will perform public service, study the Bible and teach the gospel to non-Mormons. "A lot of people ask, 'If you're living the dream playing basketball at North Carolina, why give it up?'" says White, a guard from Wilmington, N.C. "It's something I've wanted to do since I was little. The fact that Coach [Roy] Williams was supportive of my serving a mission played a huge role in my decision to go to North Carolina."

 

Kitam Hamm is using football to get out of gang-infested Compton

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Sports Illustrated
Published: December 8, 2011
By: Jeff Benedict


 

The iPhone beside Kitam Hamm's bed vibrates at 6:15 on a recent morning, stirring him awake. A car alarm pulses in the alley and police sirens scream past, noises so familiar that they go unnoticed. Squinting, Hamm flips on the light. Letters from college football recruiters -- all neatly taped to the wall next to his bed -- come into focus: Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, UCLA, Columbia and seven more. They are the first thing the 18-year-old Hamm sees every morning, a daily reminder that he's one step closer to making it out of Compton, Calif.

In a neighborhood with at least three rival gangs, Hamm's every move is orchestrated, right down to what he wears and which route he takes to school. Hamm's 12-unit apartment complex is surrounded by a black iron fence and has a single secured entrance. It sits in a neighborhood where the streets are lined with billboards, walls with graffiti and small businesses secured by bars and gates. For Hamm, dropping his guard can be the difference between life and death.

 

Safe Haven

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SI.com
Published: December 5, 2011
By: Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian


 

When the Dominguez High football team arrived by bus at Compton High for a Friday-afternoon game in September, the Dons players found four police cars parked around the stadium and every entrance to the field in lockdown. The stands had been emptied half an hour earlier as a further security precaution. Such is game day in Compton, where fears of gang activity overshadow even the city's biggest sports rivalry.

After waiting for 10 minutes while guards unchained a padlocked gate in the security fence that surrounds the stadium, the Dominguez players ran onto the field and broke the silence. "The Lord is my shepherd," chanted the team captains in unison.

"I shall not want," the rest of the team shouted back.

 

Seeing gang problem in Compton was an eye-opening experience

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SI.com
Published: December 1, 2011
By: Jeff Benedict


 

The presence of gang members on college sports teams is a topic my colleague Armen Keteyian and I started looking into last spring. After getting an exclusive look at a forthcoming study on the subject, we talked to many experts, but our story didn't come into focus until mid-September when we spent a weekend in Compton, Calif., the birthplace of the Bloods and Crips and one of the leading hot spots for college football and basketball recruiting.

Our first stop was the Los Angeles County Sheriff's substation there, where we met up with Sgt. Brandon Dean, head of the gang unit in Compton. The city's 10-square-mile footprint is home to 34 street gangs and more than 1,000 documented gang members. Dean, 34, agreed to give us a firsthand look. It was a ride I'll never forget.

 
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Jeff Benedict is a special features writer for Sports Illustrated and a bestselling author of twelve books, including My Name Used to Be Muhammad and The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football. The System is being made into a television drama.

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