The “White Shadow” is coming to Rio Rancho — and, no, it’s not that once-popular TV show of the same name that ran from 1978-81.
In the TV show, Ken Reeves, portrayed by Ken Howard, was a professional basketball player who retired because of injuries. Against his sister’s advice, he took a job as the basketball coach at Carver High School in Los Angeles, a tough, mixed-race school.
In the upcoming Rio Rancho version, “Future Champions of America,” students throughout Rio Rancho Public Schools will be dazzled by the basketball talents of Jason “White Shadow” Gibbons. He’s a motivational speaker who uses an interactive “showtime” basketball demonstration — on his website, he makes three consecutive, unedited over-the-shoulder half-court shots — to reach students with a positive message.
Gibbons’s message of hope for young people of all ages has made him in demand in schools all over the country, using his unique blend of basketball tricks, dazzling dribbling, trick shots and crowd interaction to set the table for the message he brings.
Rio Rancho Police Chief Bob Boone was given a few minutes to tell the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education at its Monday evening meeting how his Rotary Club favored bringing Gibbons into the school, and how he might help with five problematic areas: illegal drug use, drinking and driving, dropout rates, suicide and bullying.
“We thought that the program had merit,” Boone said, hoping the sports theme would be a common denominator for youngsters.
Board President Don Schlichte agreed, later encouraging the board to subsidize the cost of bringing Gibbons and the program to RRPS over a two-day stretch, probably in January, at a cost of $650 per school.
Although board member Carl Harper was at first hesitant to take away instructional time in the classroom, he said, “This sounds like a nice program.”
“I think students are motivated by those kinds of things,” Superintendent Sue Cleveland said.
Gibbons, according to his website, “inspires and encourages young people to believe in their dreams and goals, avoid negative peer pressure and the pitfalls of making poor choices.”
He is teaming up with like-minded organizations around the country to help reach young people.
“Every time I walk into a school, I’m always taken aback at how powerful a tool that ‘showtime’ basketball can be to set the table for the message that I bring to young people. When these kids see that ball spinning or they see that trick shot go in, I have their attention like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Gibbons says on his website. “There are so many negative influences out there nowadays just bombarding kids from every direction imaginable, through the music that’s being pumped into their ears, the video games that are marketed to them, the movies that they’re watching or through the Internet.
“Kids these days need to hear about the type of message that I try to bring to them now more than ever! I try to stress to students that the choices are theirs, but they don’t get to choose the consequences, that’s out of their hands,” he said.