Thunder Shopping spree turns into a ‘blessing’ for an OKC family

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

As Karen Garland walked through the aisles of Homeland Wednesday, she couldn’t believe what was going on. She was still in shock just how she came to be pushing a shopping cart with an NBA player by her side.

However, Garland had to focus. Even though the $500 that Homeland and the Oklahoma City Thunder gave her for the shopping spree was a lot, she wanted to make sure she got the essentials.

“That was my strategy, go straight to the meat,” Garland said. “I was thinking there might be a time limit, you know like 10 minutes to get all you can get. So my thing is go straight to the meat. I can buy the little can corn and whatever vegetables with my cash.”

Garland didn’t need to worry. There was no time limit on the shopping spree she had won. She and her granddaughters, Kiera and Taleah Myrks, were guided through the Homeland (2400 Cornwell Drive) by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Hamidou Diallo and Russell Raydon, store manager of Homeland at Yukon.

“It’s great to see families happy,” Diallo said. “It’s great to just go on a shopping spree for a day. And help them forget about their troubles for the day. Just try and enjoy life and sit back and don’t take it for granted.”

It took less than an hour for Garland and her shopping team to fill up almost two baskets full of items that her family needed.

“Another blessing. And the blessing came through. My granddaughter, we were having a hard time there for a minute,” Garland said. “Her and one of her counselors entered my name in this drawing, I didn’t know what to think of it. But she didn’t either. She didn’t even tell me until I won. She told me, and I got excited. I’m still excited. Honestly, it’s just a blessing.”

This was the fourth time this season that Homeland has teamed up with the Thunder to offer the shopping spree to need a family in need. The players seemingly get as much out of the shopping trip as the shoppers. For many reminds them of their own families.

Diallo remembers what it was like growing up in Queens New York and says he and his family would have reacted in the same manner as Garland if she had been offered shopping spree.

“It would’ve been great if my family had that opportunity growing up,” Diallo said. “I’m pretty sure my mom would’ve been bawl out crying and she would’ve just been so excited and it would have motived us as a family to keep pursuing our dreams and keep waking up every day with the purpose of know that our parents put us on this planer because they want to see us achieve our goals. And to bring joy to their lives because they have struggled so much.”

Garland became emotional through the afternoon as she thought back on everything she had been through and where she and her family had come from.

“Because I’ve gone through so much in my life. You know I had the stroke and it left me where I couldn’t walk, I had to learn to walk again,” Garland said. “I had two blood clots in both legs, ended up having to have back surgery, and all these things. I had two or three things at the same time. I had a brain aneurism. I had like three to four things at the same time that could’ve killed me, and I just felt like that was a miracle, that I’m up and even moving them around. And I do, I thank God every morning that I wake up, and I can sit up myself. But that’s why I’m just thankful.”

But it was when Garland received an extra Homeland gift card with $500 on it after the spree that Garland really began to shed tears as she knew just how much it was going to help her family.

“Yeah, this meat will take me a while,” Garland said. “And then with the other card that’s… I’m set for a few months.”

Just as important for Garland as the actual food the family was able to fit into the shopping carts was the experience of her granddaughters watching Diallo give back to his community. She said it’s something she believes the young ladies will do as they get older.

“That’s why we as players and us as the Thunder organization do what we do,” Diallo said. “Because the kids are our future. That’s what I am all about. That’s what I preach, helping out people in need because I was once in their shoes.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with Michael Kinney Media

Top ranked Bears pull away from Sooners

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN –  Over the course of three days, Oklahoma had a chance to make a serious statement. Facing a pair of top five teams in back to back games, it was their opportunity to show the country and themselves that they can be a dangerous team in the NCAA tournament.

However, that was not what happened. After losing by 17 to No. 3 Kansas Saturday, they fell 65-54 to No. 1 Baylor Monday at Lloyd Noble Center.

Oklahoma dropped to 16-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big 12. The loss was only their second at home this season.

For Baylor, they remain undefeated in the Big 12 at 13-0. They have now won 23 games in a row and had into a matchup with Kansas on Saturday.

Oklahoma started the night knocking down shots from the perimeter. It allowed them to take a one-point lead early in the contests.

However, when they went cold, Baylor took advantage. They surged ahead by 11 with under five minutes left I the first half.

With 2:20 left, Brady Manek drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead down to 28-22.  Austin Reaves then threw an alley-oop to Manek and the Sooners were within four.

Baylor’s Matthew Mayer scored right before the half ended to give the Bears a 30-24 lead going into the locker room.

The Sooners picked up their defensive intensity to start the second half. Kristian Doolittle and Kur Kuath controlled the paint and forced the Bears Into difficult shot or blocked them outright.

Doolittle also did most of the heavy lifting scoring-wise. After being held to three points in the first half, he began to collect buckets and trips to the free-throw line.

With 12 minutes left, Oklahoma was down 39-38.

However, that is when Baylor decided to turn things around. They outscored Oklahoma 13-2 over the next four minutes to take a 12 point advantage.

Even though Oklahoma had put Baylor in foul trouble and were shooting free throws on each foul from the nine-minute mark on, they kept on throwing up 3-pointers.

With 2:33 left in the game, Oklahoma trailed 63- 54. They needed a stop if they were going to climb back into the contest. However, Jamal Bieniemy fouled Jared Butler. He missed his free throw attempt, giving the Sooners a chance.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma, Manek missed a contested 3-point attempt and Baylor got the rebound. That sent the crowd to the exits and signaled the end of the night.

Baylor edged out Oklahoma on the boards 37-35 and only had two fewer assists. The Sooners also made six more free throws.

However, Oklahoma’s lack of 3-point shooting prowess killed them. They made only five of 21 from behind the arc.

Butler led all scorers with 22 points on 8 of 20 shooting. Mark Vital added 10 points for the Bears.

Doolittle paced the Sooners with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Alondes Williams added 11 points in 19 minutes while Manek posted 10 points. However, he scored only one point after halftime.

Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State Saturday.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Oklahoma coach taking over Futsal squad

By Michael Kinney

Just over nine months ago Steve Scott seemed to be done with coaching.
The long-time soccer coach announced his retirement in May 2019 after 23 years on the sideline. That includes the last seven seasons as the Yukon girls’ coach.
Ultimately, Scott’s retirement lasted less than a year.
This year, he’ll be back to coaching on the sideline, except it won’t be on a soccer field. Scott has accepted the head coaching job of the USA Futsal Federation C15 boys National Team.
According to Scott, this allows him to still coach, but it also to be able to focus on his daughter, who is a sophomore.
“I just wanted to pull back a little bit from the high school side so I had more time on my hands to be able to go watch my daughter and not miss any of her games that she competes in,” Scott said. “Now I get to watch my daughter play in anything that she does.”
Futsal has been growing in popularity in Oklahoma for the past five years. For those unfamiliar with the sport, it can be described as a close cousin to soccer, as they share similar skills and traits.
However, the main differences are that it’s played between two teams of five on an indoor hard court that is the size of a basketball court. In addition, futsal balls are smaller and heavier than soccer balls.
Scott already had a vested interest in futsal. For the past few years, he had been the Southwestern Region director of the USAFF.
“When the USA Futsal Federation was established, I had gotten on, and I have been there for the last couple of years,” Scott said. “I’ve been the Southwest Region Director for the USA Futsal Federation and done a lot of stuff in growing the game of futsal in Oklahoma and other states in the region over the last couple of years.”
During his time as the regional director, Scott left an impression on the other members of the federation. So when it was time to find a coach for the C15 boys, Scott was the top choice.

“Steve Scott was the SW Regional director for Oklahoma and the Southwest Region when he joined AMF (precursor to USAFF),” said Mark Brown, USA Futsal Federation President. “He did a really good job. When I got promoted to President, it kind of moved everybody up and we needed a coach for that specific age group. I knew Steve’s experience and background and for me as a President, it was kind of a no-brainer. “I was really confident that Steve would be the right guy for the position.”

Every year the AMF holds a Futsal World Cup in the summer for a different category. This year it is the U15 boy’s turn. When the opportunity came to take over and take the national team to the U15 World Cup, Scott couldn’t pass on it.

“So this 2020 it will be to C15 boys that we’ll be putting a team together and going to the world cup,” Scott said. “It’s a whole national team program if you’re familiar with soccer and it’s a national team program set up. It’s a national team program within the USA Futsal Federation.”

Along with coaching, Scott’s duties include building a team from scratch that can compete against the world’s best. That means scouring the country for the top U15 futsal players.

“We’ve got some people also working with us in Oregon that we’ll host a combine in Oregon. Then we’ll have one in Arizona and we’ll have one in Oklahoma,” Scott said. “We’ll look to have around 12 to 15 players that we’ll look at to take. We’ll create a pool of players and then we’ll ultimately select 12. We’ll select 12 players to travel and actually make the squad and go to the world cup to compete.”

The AMF Futsal World Cup Invitation is set for July 24-31 in Paraguay. They hope to have the team finalized and intact by around May or June.

“It’s looking really great,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a great showing and a good representation for the USA when we get to Paraguay this summer.”

But even after the trip to the world cup, Scott’s duties may not be done. With the prospect of a pro Futsal league starting up later this year and more events, Brown wants Scott to stay around.

“What I am hoping is that after coach is done with this summer’s events, he will stay on with our national team and continue to build it out for the other age groups and with the adults,” Brown said. “And form the coaching continuity we will need to build that program out and keep it sustainable into the future.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

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