(Original story credit: Matt Schoch of the Virgin Islands Daily News)

ST. THOMAS – Milt Newton’s park is now Milt Newton Park.

The Bordeaux basketball court where he fell in love with the game was rededicated to the Virgin Islands native in a ceremony Friday night in his old west St. Thomas neighborhood.

“I’m proud to be from Bordeaux,” the Minnesota Timberwolves general manager declared, with approving yells from his old neighborhood family. “Growing up in Bordeaux was like being raised by a village.”

Gov. Kenneth Mapp declared it “Milt Newton Day” in the USVI on Friday, and hundreds of people crowded the Bordeaux park to celebrate Newton, the former University of Kansas standout who has worked his way up the professional basketball front-office ladder.

But being on St. Thomas brought him back to a time when his friends raced homemade bikes down hills and snuck through the fence to play basketball at night.

“Looking out into the crowd, to the young faces, I see me when I look at them,” Newton said. “I remember hoping and wishing for more people to come back and share with me, and hug me and tell me that you can do it, just keep working hard.”

“That’s the primary reason my wife and I started the Emerald Gems Foundation.”

He said later: “We’re here to stay.”

Earlier, Newton’s daughter, Shaniya, read a poem she wrote in tribute of her father. His son, Miles, also was on hand.

His wife, Shalaun, prepared a video for the ceremony and his 50th birthday, which is later this month.

On it, messages of good wishes came from good friends and family members, in addition to prominent members of the basketball community like Newton’s boss Flip Saunders with the Timberwolves, University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams and University of Kentucky coach John Calipari.

Southern Methodist coach Larry Brown also was in the video, and was on hand for the ceremony too, as Newton’s guest from the previous day’s inaugural coaching clinic through the Emerald Gems Foundation, Newton’s new charity for USVI youths.

The charity is hosting its first youth basketball camp this weekend, which began on Friday morning at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School with a session for high school students.

Today, the younger campers will take part in the free clinic. Registration is closed for the event.

In addition to basketball friends like Brown, Newton also brought down family to the event, including Kent and Carmen Amos of Washington, D.C., who Newton refers to as his parents.

Newton’s mother, Cleopatra, passed away. But soon after moving to D.C. for his high school years, Newton began going to the Amos house as he was friends with a child who lived with the couple.

But that young man wasn’t the only one.

The Amos family brought in 85 children to their home over the years as theirs, despite not having any biological children of their own: 73 that attended college, 60 that graduated from college, 20-some have master’s degrees, a couple doctors.

“The pride of a father in any of his children is always the greatest thing in your existence,” Kent Amos said. “Especially when they learn the values that you’re trying to give them.”

“And the real values that we’re trying to give all our kids is what Milt is doing with the Emerald Gems Foundation. You got to give it back, because you can’t take it with you, and it wasn’t yours in the first place.”

In addition, Mapp was on hand as one of the speakers, and announced that legislation would be coming soon to allocate $500,000 of new money to the Department of Sports, Parks & Recreation for youth programs.

In addition, he also said legislation is forthcoming for $500,000 of money to be given to the Department of Education for scholastic athletic competitions between the USVI, British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

– Contact Daily News Sports Editor Matt Schoch at mschoch@dailynews.vi.