Tag: Patrick Winters

Life After Court: Post-Career, Dee Brown And Danka Beasley Are Repping Maywood Hoops In Their Own Ways



Tuesday, November 10, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

These days, Proviso East basketball legend Dee Brown, (pictured above), “wears his hair short rather than in cornrows,” according to a recent Chicago Tribune article that was published in the Idaho Statesman.

The 31-year-old basketball star, who led the Fighting Illini to the NCAA championship game in 2005, harbors the mature ambitions of coaching or becoming an athletic director someday.

At the time the Tribune article came out, Brown was special assistant to University of Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, who was fired Monday. After playing for three NBA teams and 10 teams overseas, the retired basketball player is ready to parlay his opportunity with Thomas into something more substantial.

And his infectious optimism may make it happen.

When Tribune reporter Shannon Ryan noted the university’s recent troubles — it “has gone through multiple scandals in the athletic department this year: a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former women’s basketball players; the firing of football coach Tim Beckman amid an external investigation into mistreatment of players; and a lawsuit filed by a women’s soccer player who alleges she was mistreated for concussions” — Brown focused on the positive.

“Everyone knows I’m a positive guy,” he told Ryan. “Out of the one negative you give me about Illinois, I could give you 10 positives. I could spit them out quick.”

And he did, Shannon writes, noting that Brown “easily launches into descriptions of the renovated State Farm Center, the athletic facilities and the school’s academic reputation.”

It’s been ten years since Brown took the Illini to the pinnacle of college basketball, but the point guard is still the program’s face.

“”I’m on a team right now,” Brown told Ryan. “We’re trying to make this university thrive. We’ve got one common goal: That’s to make this university win.”

Hoop dreams in a homegrown league

Danka Beasley

Participants in Danka’s Men Basketball League participate in a second round playoff game. Below, Quinton Beasley during a pickup game. | Photos: Facebook

BeasleyWhile Brown navigates his promising post-playing days in Champaign, Maywood native Quinton “Danka” Beasley is on a mission to transform the local hoops scene here in Proviso Township.

Beasley, a product of Irving Middle School (formerly Irving Elementary) and Proviso East High School, has started a full-blown basketball league for kids and adults — ages four to 40 years old.

After playing in middle school and high school, Beasley played college ball before his oversees career in Oviedo, Spain was cut short due to knee injuries.

Now, his ambitions have shifted.

“I wanted to give the kids and adults in my community something to look forward to and participate in,” Beasley said.

He created the league with longtime recreational advocate Patrick Winters and represents Maywood on a team comprising former Proviso East Pirates Everett Stubblefield, Nate Fuqua and Raymont Sharp.

“Some of the kids I know have a slight chance of making a team, so Patrick and I started this league just for them, so they can develop the skills and confidence to go the next level,” Beasley said.

“We saw the success we had with the kids and figured we should stretch it out a little more,” said Winters, who along with Beasley and several others facilitated a successful youth basketball tournament in August.

Along with the developmental league for children, Beasley and Winters started an adult league, called Danka Men’s Basketball League, that is year-round and divided into four 15-game seasons. There are about 16 teams and more than 160 players in the league. Each team pays a $250 registration fee.

Beasley said the leagues play in three locations, which vary; but all of the games are secured by Maywood police officers Aaron Peppers and Jevon Robinson. He said the kids play a part in the adult league by running concessions and taking score —opportunities that allow the kids to earn money.

Winters said he sees the league as a cycle that’s coming back around to its point of origin. He remembers when he was a kid playing basketball on Maywood’s concrete courts and on Proviso East’s hardwood.

When he got older, he began coaching. Beasley was around six or seven years old when Winters took him under his wings. Now, Beasley’s become a mentor to budding ball players in his own right.

Winters said he feels some momentum gathering within Maywood’s local hoops scene that could flourish into a full-fledged renaissance — a reversion back to the village’s golden days, when, as Winters recalls, young kids would miss curfew to get a glimpse of, and maybe even an opportunity to play against, legends like Isiah Thomas and Doc Rivers at 10th Park.

Although he cited the cooperation of various village departments and government agencies as one reason for the revitalization, he gave a lot of credit to Maywood’s first-year village manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., who he said “is giving us all the assistance we ask for” and to the men “who are stepping up and showing their faces — whether its basketball or wrestling or football or whatever.”

“Now, with the adult league, the whole family is getting in on this and everybody is able to see each other play,” Winter said. “This is not just changing lives on the court, but this is changing lives at home as well.”

For more information on Danka’s Men Basketball League, call (708) 506-2089. VFP

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The Beacon on Fifth Avenue

Keith Brown, Patrick Winters, Regi Ratliffe
Keith Brown, Patrick Winters, Regi Ratliffe

By Michael Romain

“I was living in Northern Virginia, working as a government contractor,” says Rev. Regi Ratliffe, who was raised in Maywood and attended Garfield Elementary and Proviso East High School. Mr. Ratliffe, an NCAA All-American wrestler who competed at the Olympic trials, was tired of coming back home to a place that was looking less and less like the Maywood of his youth.

So he left the Virginia suburbs, left his well-paying job and returned to the place of his upbringing. In 1997, he founded Eternal Light Youth Services, a nonprofit organization that offers after-school and summer recreational and academic services to area young people, ages 5 to 18. For the last two years, the organization has operated in the historic Masonic Building at 200 S. Fifth Avenue.

To maintain the organization, Mr. Ratliffe relies on a core group of key volunteer instructors, such as Maurice Martin (self-defense), Keith Brown, (weight training), James Hannah (wrestling) and Vernell Brown (tumbling); in addition to a coterie of volunteers from local colleges such as Loyola, Dominican and Concordia, who assist with tutoring and nutritional instruction. Mr. Ratliffe’s two key staff members, Patrick Winters, director of athletics and Sonja McCoy, director of community relations, assist him with day-to-day operations.

Patrick Winters is in his office looking out into the gymnasium that was added onto the Masonic building some years ago with funds provided by Michael Finley, a Proviso East alumnus and former NBA star who played with the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. Finley’s #4 Mavericks jersey is hallowed in a glass case that hangs at the gymnasium’s entrance. Whoever enters this hard court sanctuary has to pass by Finley’s relic and (when he’s inside of his office) Winters’s trademark beard, which only adds to his oracle-like appearance.

Every place as rich in folklore and humanity as Maywood’s basketball courts and baseball diamonds and football fields and wrestling mats has an aura, a mystique, which is often embodied in someone like Mr. Winters, for whom the past is still very much present.

Patrick Winters
Patrick Winters looks out onto the basketball court from his office.

Winters could probably tell you the name of every significant athlete that’s passed  through the Village in the last thirty years. He’s probably coached or mentored or played with half of them. As he shows me the room where self-defense instruction is held, Winters drops the name of Nathaniel “Spider” Walker, an MMA fighter who trains here from time to time. Several inflatable punching bags are scattered throughout the empty room like pillars of salt, consistent with the organic, makeshift spirit of the building’s current occupants–shaped from the pressure of circumstance.

“You have to understand what fear is,” says Maurice Martin, himself a former MMA fighter and the self-defense instructor. “In order to get over the fear of pain, you’ve got to expose yourself to physical altercation slowly, in small doses, in a controlled manner.”

He’s explaining one of the primary advantages of learning self-defense, which trains people to react against their instinct to ‘fight or flee’ in dangerous situations, to assess with their front brains before they act with their hind brains. “We teach Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, the way of the intercepting fist,” Mr. Martin says. “If someone attacks you, the best response is to intercept the attack, rather than fighting them.”

Mr. Martin was drawn to Eternal Light because he wanted to train with a crowd of people with whom he could relate on a cultural level. “I wanted to come back to a more familiar setting,” he says. There were only about two people in attendance when I observed, but a typical class may have between 10-12 participants, whose ages range from around ten to over sixty.

This sense of order is a vital antidote to many of the children’s chaotic domestic situations. “A lot of the kids go through emotional challenges and they have no outlet,” says Mr. Ratliffe. For many of the youth his organization services, the center is a place of much-needed balance. “We’re here to provide an outlet for them. We give them tough love sometimes, but they appreciate that.”

Maurice Martin (foreground)
Maurice Martin (foreground)

Before each day of activities start, the youth and volunteers arrange themselves in a large prayer circle in the gym; Tutoring is mandatory; each child is provided with a membership card (in exchange for a registration fee that amounts to about $1/night); snacks are provided several days out of the week; and most of the programming, which includes mentoring, computer instruction, financial literacy courses, tumbling, basketball, wrestling, volleyball and weight-lifting, is structured. There’s also a social worker on site. On any given school night, around 140 kids may cycle through the building.

But much of the activity that goes on here is also spontaneous and improvisational. As I was waiting for Mr. Ratliffe to arrive, I witnessed two young women engaged in violin lessons–one was teaching, while the other was learning. And as I was leaving, a young woman was seated alone at a table in the main multi-purpose room, drawing while listening to music. “When are we going to get art lessons?” she asked Mr. Ratliffe, who said that he’d look into making it happen.

Girl Playing Instrument
Hortelyn G. Recto plays the violin.

“We could always use more volunteers,” Mr. Ratliffe says. “We always hear people say that there aren’t programs here in Maywood, but they don’t stop by here and help out. We need the community to be more engaged for these kids.” VFP

In the Field

More images of the 2013 consolidated election.

Maywood United HQ

Monday: The Maywood United Party’s campaign headquarters on 17th and Madison sits relatively empty. It’s after 5pm and most volunteers are resting up for tomorrow’s election day push, which will start at around 5 am. When I arrive, two men are conversing in a back office. One of them is candidate for trustee Mike Rogers. Rogers is guardedly optimistic and cautiously confident about tomorrow. “I don’t take anything for granted,” he says.

Rogers (pictured below), an architect with McDonald’s Corporation, is the former president of the National Organization of Minority Architects. In 2010, he served as the president of the American Institute of Architects Illinois. Rogers managed the construction of the McDonald’s on First and Lake, in addition to designing the underground railroad memorial that annexes it. He’s currently part of the development of a second McDonald’s to be built along the Village’s Roosevelt Road corridor, a key area of commercial activity lined with several fast food establishments, such as a Burger King, White Castle and a Poor Boy.

The new McDonald’s will have several sustainable features, such as energy efficient windows and motion sensor lighting. “Maywood needs a lot of resources,” he says. “I hope this isn’t a popularity contest…it’s got to be a resource contest,” he says of tomorrow’s election.

Mike Rogers

Saturday night: The campaign of independent mayoral candidate Nicole Gooden hosts a fundraiser at the American legion on Madison Street (below).

Nicole Gooden Fundraiser

Patrick Winters (below), a candidate for Maywood Park District Commissioner, is among the attendees. Winters is the Athletic Director for Eternal Light Community Services, an organization that plans and oversees athletic and academic programming for more than 600 children at 200 S. 5th Ave. “8 or 9 months ago, I went into a board meeting and said I would put this village on my back myself. Somebody has to step up…there aren’t enough men out there.” Should he get elected, he wants to bring Little League  and Pony League baseball back to Maywood, in addition to more recreational programming for seniors. A graduate of Western Illinois and Central State Universities, Winters has been coaching practically his entire adult life. “I’ve been coaching in the community for over 30 years. I’ve coached kids who have went on to [the NBA, the NFL, the MLB].” Even though the Village has its problems, he doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “I’ve been a lifetime in Maywood…I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home’.”

Patrick Winters