Thunder Surprise Student-Athletes With Holiday Shopping Spree | Jobs Reply

Posted by Nick Gallo | Broadcast Journalist and Digital Editor |

Holiday Shopping Spree Surprise

Solomon Davis, a 6-foot-6 junior at Millwood High School, has a basketball game Friday against Douglass High School. On Thursday afternoon, he faced NBA star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The pair selected basketball socks, shooting sleeves and other gear as part of a fun Christmas shopping spree. Before the afternoon was over, however, it was Davis who was paying the price.

As part of the Thunder’s 15th The annual Holiday Assist, Millwood student-athletes, selected for their positive attitude and leadership, were invited to the event, but were not given details. When they arrived, they were greeted by the Thunder Girls and Rumble.

Thunder Girl Ashley quickly learned how to cheer for other Millwood fans who were part of the team. Rumble, Santa’s hat sat on his head, pressed his fur to the shopping cart. Mike Muscala then appeared and was seen pushing Rumble through the store in a cart, along with a Millwood student named Athenia.

Then it was time to reveal the big surprise of the Millwood students. Each of them will be paired with a Thunder player to find shops to choose from all kinds of clothes, shoes and sports equipment.

“This is a big thing for them, and it gives them opportunities to maybe choose things that they wouldn’t be able to choose,” said Millwood Superintendent Dr. Cecilia Robinson-Woods. “It also gives them the opportunity to use those leadership skills – having conversations with adults and being around a lot of cameras. It just gives them a chance to shine.”

After each Thunder player broke through the curtain as if being called to the starting lineup, they were joined by their student-athletes. The two spread the scattershot to every corner of the shop. Aleksej Pokuševski helped his student, Esther Watson, find a sweatshirt, sweatpants and compression shirts to stay warm between track and basketball games.

“He’s really tall,” he said of Poku. “I had to keep looking at him because I needed help holding things and he was tall. So I was like, ‘can you get this?’” Watson added with a grin. “It was fun. It was a good thing for me.”

Tre Mann grabbed a shopping cart with his new friend Malik, who seemed intent on buying the store before his teammates knew. My co-star Aaron Wiggins was trying to convince his new friend Ameria to buy a pair of high-end Christmas stockings and was met with some classic teenage resistance and a tongue-in-cheek speech. Laughter ensued throughout the afternoon, as the play continued when Wiggins held up something and Ameria took it away with her mouth.

“In addition to gifts and clothes and shoes and stuff, I think it’s just being able to spend time with people in the community,” said Wiggins. “I know if it was me when I was a kid, it would have been the day of my life. It’s good to see the spirit of happiness in everything.”

Muscala helped Athenia grab a pair of shorts, socks and a hoodie before swinging by the shoe rack. When they got to the checkout line, Muscala started singing a familiar song that began: “We’re breaking through the snow…”

Lu Dort was also in the holiday spirit, asking his student-athlete Joshua, an eighth-grader who plays football, if his roster was ready to go. As he and Joshua were leaving, a family entered the store and were surprised by what they saw.

“Hey, there are Thunder players here!” My father said. “That is Lu Dort!”

Rookie Jalen Williams had two students, a boy and a girl, which meant they were surfing the store, going back and forth to the men’s and women’s areas to pick up warm weather gear. There was another Williamses running the shop as well. Kenrich Williams, who wears No. 34 for the Thunder, was paired with Ja’Niyah Williams, who wears No. 43 for the Millwood girls basketball team. Kenrich, the only dad in the group, went into full dad mode and made sure a warm coat was one of the first things Ja’Niyah bought.

A student named Maurion was about to go shopping with Isaiah Joe, but decided to look for something else – a Thunder jersey. After signing Maurion’s autograph, Joe helped him track down Gilgeous-Alexander’s jersey, then Shai himself. Joe tossed the jersey over his back, handing a canvas to his teammate to sign the jersey and send Maurion home with a reflective jersey from the Thunder leader and a big smile.

“He walked out of here smiling and I’m about to walk out of here smiling,” said Joe.

“I remember being in the middle of those years in high school,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Like true joy at Christmas time, and it’s fun to see. It’s like bringing back memories and it’s good to give back to the community.”

With the cart full, SGA student Solomon Davis decided he wanted to do something else: buy a gift for someone else. She made one last swing past the hoodies and used some of her splurge to pay for them instead of spending on herself. That act, unspoken and true, permeated the full spirit of Thunder’s Holiday Assist.

“Having that humility and thinking about other people like that at a young age is important,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Those things translate into your whole life. He will be blessed in many ways because of his attitude.”

Solomon said about Shai and at the event, “He was a really good person. It was just a great experience – like everything I could ask for. I just wanted to take care of someone in the community. I’ll just give it to someone I think needs it.”

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