As part of the PAWS Up HBCU Classic, Claflin University on Saturday recognized the role of mothers in the lives of athletes and communities.
The Women’s Brunch with NBA Moms specifically honored guests Lucille O’Neal (mother of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal), Jamie Morant (mother of Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant) and Michelle Carter (mother of NBA all-star Vince Carter). They were recognized for their community service, entrepreneurship, and visionary leadership for developing programs that promote educational, cultural and social development.
Claflin Athletic Director Tony O'Neal, along with his wife Bonnie, said Saturday's event was about the importance of mothers in athletics.
"We have three basketball games today. They (the players) put in years and years of dedication to the craft and sport they love so much. They couldn’t do without their community and family support but especially without their moms," Bonnie O'Neal said.
"Their moms are essential to their success. (Being) the mom of a couple of student-athletes, we sacrifice. We drive all over town, we travel across the country, we support those kids. Today, we are celebrating three phenomenal NBA moms."
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“We’re celebrating these phenomenal women. Me and Dr. Warmack (Claflin president) can tell you, it was our moms. They sacrificed everything for us. We thank God every day that we got to live this dream because of the sacrifices they made," Tony O'Neal said. "I worked firsthand with Miss (Lucille) O’Neal and Miss (Michelle) Carter. They both were so excited to be recognized for their achievements because everybody jumps when they say their sons’ (names), but their sons wouldn’t be who they are today if it wasn’t for their strong mommas."
The three NBA mothers spoke at the event.
"It’s an honor and a privilege to be back at my alma mater, Claflin University," Jamie Morant said. "Also, to be in the presence of phenomenal women. My motto and favorite inspirational quote is ‘beneath no one.’ It was important to instill this in my children to not allow others to determine their destiny. (Ja) always strives to make us proud as he is beneath no one but God. We strive to teach others that they are beneath no one."
Michelle Carter shared advice she learned while sitting with Lucille O'Neal and Grant Hill's mother at an earlier event.
"I was at an NBA mothers' convention; Grant Hill’s mother was sitting on one side of me while Lucille sat on the other. I was taught, if you want to be successful and smart, close your mouth, open your eyes, open your ears, and learn," Carter said. "There’s times people just look at me and Lucille, and just act like we got some magic wand. We’re just moms. We had our babies by the grace of God. They’re on that path that was set for them. We are there to nourish, to advise, but it’s up to them to listen."
Lucille O'Neal encouraged those in attendance to recognize that it takes a village.
“I think about all the awards and the recognition, and it’s such a blessing," O'Neal said. "First ladies, I don’t know how ya'll are going to top that, but we need to do this again. Where I come from in New Jersey, we always talk about the village, it takes a village to raise a child. Keep the concept of the village in your mind; our young people need us. Anytime you are in the company of a young person, make an effort to pour into that young child."
The brunch coincided with the PAWS Up HBCU Classic, about which AD Tony O’Neal said:
“To celebrate basketball again in South Carolina. Everyone knows football here, but there’s been a rich tradition in HBCU basketball and just to re-invent it was crucial. When I talked to my colleagues, they all were on board and said ‘yes, this needs to be something we need to do.’ The rest is just history and it started to grow.”
The two-day event included basketball games, community-engagement activities and opportunities to learn more about the legacies of South Carolina HBCUs. Benedict College, Morris College and Voorhees College were the other participants.