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USVI Teens Leave Good Impression at NCAA Game at Madison Square Garden

Group picture of everyone who attended the Duke University vs Baylor University Men’s Basketball Game. (Submitted photo)

Over 50 student-athletes from the United States Virgin Islands were welcomed guests at the Duke University vs Baylor University NCAA Men’s Basketball game held in Madison Square Gardens in New York City on Wednesday.

These young Virgin Islanders were able to attend this game because they attended the 2023 Level Up Conference on Aug. 5 at the City of Refuge Convention Center in Barren Spot, St. Croix.  ‘Building Trailblazers’ was the theme of the motivational conference and Apostle Mona Barnes’s administrative team of young leaders delivered an impactful one-day seminar.

The event attracted teenagers from St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, who came to hear former NFL player Troy Vincent; entrepreneur and St. Thomas native Kyle Sexius; executive leader David Johnson; gospel singer and spiritual leader Bishop Jason Nelson; and former Duke All American and ESPN analyst Jay Williams. All five presenters made powerful presentations that included personal testimonies, valued words of wisdom, and the importance of having faith in everything you do.

Calvert White, commissioner of Sports, Park, and Recreation, was tasked to conduct a live interview with Jason ‘Jay’ Williams. Williams shared how he was recruited by Legendary Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. During his tenure at Duke, Williams led the Blue Devils to win the NCAA National Championship in 2001, and he was National Player of the Year in 2002. That same year, he was drafted second overall in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Williams went on to have an outstanding rookie campaign with the Bulls, earning a spot on the NBA’s second All-Rookie Team that year.

Unfortunately, that summer, Williams got into a motorcycle accident that ended his playing career. He went on to share that one of the ways he presently serves his community is by training teams in his hometown in New Jersey and taking them to Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, to witness a Duke home game.

Initially, the leadership group was going to send one student-athlete from each district to a Duke home game this season. However, Mike Triplett of Cigna Insurance was in the audience. He called Apostle Mona Barnes of City Refuge Worship Center over and whispered something in her ear.  Barnes then proceeded to invite all students in the building to come on stage. Then she announced that everyone on stage would be attending a Duke game this year.

The game against Baylor University in Madison Square Garden was selected. More than 80 students, chaperones, and even the speakers at the conference made their way to New York to watch the game live in the comforts of four luxury suites.

The group received several compliments from Triplett and other workers at the Garden that they had never seen so many young teenagers so well-behaved. This is a testament to what the Level Up Leadership Team worked hard to accomplish, “we strive to empower this generation to be visionaries, innovators, trendsetters, pathfinders, and leaders in their communities by accomplishing what has never been seen or done before,” the organization stated.

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