“You can never be a professional basketball player.”

While most youths with an NBA dream would take that statement to heart, thankfully, Jason Richardson didn’t. In fact, he steadfastly refused to let his teacher’s comment interfere with his future profession, and for the last four years, he’s been working with young students to encourage them to achieve their dreams while also making positive choices in life.

Just hours removed from the Suns’ brief three-game road swing, J-Rich was back in the classroom Thursday as part of his “Man-Up Forum” with 60 seventh and eighth grade students at Percy L. Julian Elementary School in Phoenix. Richardson drew examples from his own upbringing to show the students that positive personal change is always possible. 

“I talk to young men about the choices they make in life,” Richardson said, “and try to lead them down the right road with positive insights – everything from growing up in a single-parent home to making wise decisions.”

The Suns guard was also joined by fellow motivational speaker Brian Pruitt, a former All-American running back, who shared some of his life experiences, before handing the floor back over to Richardson to answer students’ questions and sign autographs for all in attendance.

“With Jason’s program,” Pruitt said, “his goal is to reach as many young boys and men as possible and challenge them to do just what the forum is called and ‘Man Up.’ Jason wants to make an impact, and the best way for him to do that is to be touchable.” 

From relaying his former teacher’s regrets over her comments years ago and talking about growing up without his dad at home to encouraging the students to shoot for the stars in their personal lives and do it the right way, Richardson’s message was not lost on the eager, receptive crowd. 

 ”Growing up is hard,” J-Rich added. “Give kids hope and the dreams that they can do something with their lives.”

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