The Golden State Warriors donated a lot of athletic tennis shoes to the San Quentin Warriors after their annual game last season. Along with a collection of shoes from longtime volunteer Bill Epling, the basketball program at SQ received over 100 pairs.
To be exact, a combined 104 pairs of shoes were donated to the SQ basketball program by Golden State and Prison Sports Ministries.
“I want Bill Epling and Don Smith from Prison Sports Ministries to know that we really appreciate them. I watched people change from them just coming in here and supporting the sports programs,” said Basketball General Manager Brian Asey, who has been overseeing operations for the last five years.
The SQ Warriors players will get to play in some good-quality tennis shoes of all kinds, including the latest Steph Curry shoes made by Under Armour. Also included were low-top and high-top Air Force Ones, made by Nike, and an assortment of other shoes that some players of the Warriors actually wear.
The basketball program has been receiving donated shoes from Epling and Smith’s Prison Sports Ministries program for several years. However, the pandemic had all but stopped them from coming in.
When the pandemic lifted, Golden State was able to enter the prison for their annual game against the SQ Warriors, which restarted the donation conversation.
Asey said that it was the San Quentin Kings Head Coach Ish Freelon who urged him to have a conversation with GSW Vice President of Operations Mike Dunleavy, who was at the game with the assistant equipment manager of the GS Warriors, Marcus Hightower. The two had an instrumental role in the donation process. Hightower actually played impressively in the game against the SQ Warriors that day.
Once all the ramifications and paperwork were approved, a longtime volunteer for the basketball program, Ginnie Waters, received big bags of brand-new shoes at her doorstep. It was Waters, educator Zack Pryor, and the overseer of all sports and recreation at the prison, Coach K. Bhatt, who worked together to complete the process.
“Once I picked the shoes up, they went to my office,” said Bhatt. “The shoes are for the guys who play on the team and they will get to wear them during the games and at practices.”
General Manager Asey and the head coaches of the Kings and Warriors, Ish Freelon and Jeremiah “JB” Brown, distributed the shoes to the players by size for a Saturday scrimmage game and players got the opportunity to feel that comfort of having on a good shoe.
“I had on the teal color Crayolas made by Adidas,” said Sadiq Davis, power forward for the SQ Warriors. “I haven’t had on any real shoes in about 15 years and they felt good. Wearing those shoes made me feel like I have to hurry up and get free. It made me feel like we got somebody that loves us out there. I want to get out so I can personally thank Bill Epling, Don Smith and Prison Sports Ministries, and especially I want to thank the GSW’s organization for donating the shoes to us. It means a lot.”
Navion Sparks had on some unique Dwyane Wade shoes made by Li Ning. Top promising player Tyler “Drizzy” Cooper had on the Bradley Beal shoes made by Nike.
Giving out the shoes, “It’s one of the ways we use to get the young men here and newcomers to the prison involved,” GM Asey said. “It means a lot to give men here something, because some guys here may not have nothing. To give them something like some shoes to get them inspired to do better means a lot.”