Fans of State Thunder,
Hurricane Katrina is likely go down as the worst national disaster in United States history.
We recently did a piece here on SpartanThunder.com about one of the loyal message board posters and SJSU alumni in "Cajun Spartan".
You can read more about the "tales of evacuation" from an SJSU alumni's perspective at this URL:
The story is titled "Hurricane Katrina and the Cajun Spartan".
While the lives of those in the Gulf Coast have been tragically affected, what nerve did this natural disaster strike for some of us here on the west coast?
Two individuals, one player and one coach new to the San Jose State program, have had to deal with the storms issues.
Current Spartans assistant coach Derrick Allen, who has yet to coach in a single SJSU game, and junior guard Carlton Spencer, fresh from the junior college ranks, both grew up in the neighborhoods of New Orleans -- streets that have become underwater tombs.
Both state that they can barely start to calculate how this catastrophe has affected their lives. Millions of people will be displaced by the event and their families are just two of the many.
It is heart warming to know that Coach Allen has had the opportunity to help out many of his New Orleans natives. Along with countless volunteers in the Houston area, Allen has helped victims escape the destruction, disease, and despair Katrina has left in its path.
"Wow, I still have a hard time imagining that from all the thousands of people that they will eventually pluck from the water that have died," said Allen, somber as he returned to Northern California. "I probably will know hundreds of them -- even my own younger cousin was confirmed drowned a week ago. It just tears you up and makes you sad inside. But I try not to let myself get down too much or do a lot of finger pointing at what went wrong, I believe that it's time to get up and do something for these people and be that 'someone' who makes it go right."
That statement typifies Allen. After prepping at John F. Kennedy high school in New Orleans, Allen made his way to Porterville Junior College where he played under his current boss at San Jose State, head coach George Nessman.
After improving his academic profile, Allen signed with UC Santa Barbara and had to excellent seasons with the Gauchos. He's remained in California since. However, since Katrina hit the Crescent City, Allen has been a "man on a mission" to help out his family and friends back home.
"Our staff at San Jose St. is like family, they understood my pain and have helped me try to get over this tragedy," said Allen. "That my caring coach has allowed me to break away during this recruitment period to be at the Houston Astrodome is awesome. That has made the difference being able to physically connect to people down there."
Carlton, who recently signed with the Spartans after starring at College of the Canyons (COC) junior college the past two seasons, feels the same way. He has appreciated the support of the administration, coaches, and fellow players. "I couldn't have stayed on track without the help of everyone here," said Spencer. "I was visiting back home until that Saturday when the storm hit. I wanted to stay till Sunday. I feel like going back to help the relatives that are there all the time but the best thing I can do for them is to concentrate and get good marks to make them all proud. I'm definitely going back home to help rebuild the city after graduating here from San Jose State."
Spencer, who should be a terrific impact junior college player for Coach Nessman after twice being named the All-Western State Conference MVP in both 2004 and 2005, plus a 1st team all-State performance this past season that helped COC to their best finish in ten years, attended West Jefferson high school in New Orleans. He was born and raised in the city.
Thankfully, Carlton's family is "o.k." compared to most families he grew up with in New Orleans. Nonetheless, the tragedy has greatly changed his family forever. "His father had to rapidly relocate to Los Angeles, his mother to Houston, and brothers and sisters moved and spread out over five different cities. Families who one month ago were working and raising families in New Orleans are now forced to scatter like petals of a dying rose, simply to survive.
Coach Allen's older sister, Stacie, will unfortunately be one of the hundreds of thousands that will face a New Orleans future with no job or home because of the hurricane. But thanks to her brother Derrick, a lending hand is there to help. She'll come west and get back on her feet here in California. She'll be one of the lucky ones that can feel productive again soon.
How many others will have that "special someone?"
One can only hope that everyone affected by Hurricane Katrina has that special someone to bring them through the storm. It is a testament to the human spirit that from the dozens of New Orleans natives that we've interviewed in recent weeks to have now weathered the storm, all of them have stated a common goal; to rise again. The same threaded view of New Orleans as a city will be better than ever because of what has happened.
As a writer, I ask myself sometimes, how could the people of New Orleans go back to the area knowing that the levies might fail, that it could all happen again?
Allen provided some insight. "People always think that someone else's city will get wrecked but it was our time and we just have to deal with it," stated Coach Allen. "Our people love their city; they are just like the NFL Saints pro football team in that we aren't going to give up. People from New Orleans are not known for giving up."
Many residents have reminded us all that the New Orleans region carries a special responsibility as a major port city for the United States. In terms of commerce, trade simply could not function long-term without its key logistical location. But many also worry that when the revitalization of the city with be a "gentrified" version of a New Orleans that will mostly cater to richer segments of the city that can afford it.
It is cheerless that many good people from this noble city will be forced to be nomads in the upcoming months; to live out their dreams in someone else's gym. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the tragedy is that a city known for such fun-loving, quality people; folks that open doors to anyone and everyone and have been known to be tremendously hospitable, that now it is their turn to be treated to the nation's hospitality.
In other college basketball news:
Harry Brown of the Community College of San Francisco (CCSF), is now with San Jose State!
Brown was due to play this year for the Spartans but due to some academic issues in his transfer from CCSF, he'll sit out the 2005-06 season and play for the Spartans in 2006-07.
Brown will give the Spartans a physical undersized wing/forward that can really bring it defensively.
Harry will be a junior in 2006-07.
Spartan Thunder thanks A.W Prince of BearTerritory.net for the infomation in the above story.
Prince is well known for his work on Bay Area basketball and publishes a weekly article entitled "The Weekly Spin" that focuses on both college and high school basketball in Northern California.
Check out the BearTerritory.net as well.