CHICAGO (CBS) — At nearly seven-feet tall former basketball star Lemone Lampley is now a giant in the community.
He is the creator of a program that mentors young African American men. CBS 2’s Jim Williams finds out why Lapley left the sports world to help.
“A lot of young people out here that need help,” Lampley said.
That assessment had led Lemone Lampley to make sharp turn in the last a couple of years, from Assistant Athletic director at DePaul to the founder of Men of Color Connected for Higher Achievement or MOCCHA, a mentoring program for African American men.
“It seems like God is leading me down this path and I took this leap of faith,” he said.
A leap of faith after a lifetime in sports. At six-foot-11 he played basketball at DePaul, then played professionally overseas. Later, working at DePaul and attending grad school, Lapley got some advice from a professor.
“I think you need to consider starting a non-profit and working with some of these young men you’re describing,” Lapley said.
Young men he had worked with in a prison ministry.
Lapley was convinced to make MOCCHA full-time job when entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Sarowitz offered financial support.
“I invested in Lemone. Lemone has a heart as big as his height,” Sarowitz said.
“As a Chicagoan, as a successful entrepreneur, I believe we can solve the problems we have in Chicago, these incessant shootings, the violence, if we work together.”
These young men say Lapley has shown them a world of possibilities by example.
“He was a basketball player, but now he’s doing this for us,” one young man said. “It inspires me to do the absolute best that I can.”
“That was MOCCHA offers,” Lampley said. “Offers assistance, offers opportunity to get involved in something that’s positive and hopefully can be life changing for them.”
On Wednesday night, at the Parkway Ballroom, Lapley’s group MOCCHA holds its first awards banquet honoring among others, Annette and Ronald Holt, whose son Blair was shot to death on a CTA bus 10 years ago.
The Holts and Lapley share a passion for helping young black men have productive and healthy lives.