ST. THOMAS – The Minnesota Timberwolves front office was lauded by much of the sports world in its handling of a tough situation last offseason.
Faced with losing him after this season for nothing, the National Basketball Association franchise traded its most recognizable player, but seemed to get a nice haul in return.
But even now, the team’s general manager Milt Newton is still getting questions about the unloading of Kevin Love.
On Friday, it came from some of his youngest critics.
In town to connect with St. Thomas public school students and announce plans for his new foundation, he was asked a couple times about trading the NBA All-Star to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I mean we got back the Rookie of the Year,” Milton joked, referring to Andrew Wiggins. “What more do you want?”
Newton connected with dozens of students in a tour of four schools on Friday, and hopes to reach many more of them again later this summer.
The St. Thomian was in town with his wife, Shalaun, to announce the formation of the Emerald Gems Foundation, the family’s vehicle for giving back, in part to Newton’s home.
The foundation plans to bring a basketball camp to St. Thomas this August for a two-day clinic. Plans, which are not finalized, are tentatively to have 75 campers, ages 8-17, take part in the camp for free.
Newton said tentative plans are to bring his college coach, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, to St. Thomas for a coaching clinic in conjunction with the event.
Newton lived on St. Thomas until he was 14 and shared stories with young Virgin Islanders at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School, Charlotte Amalie High School and Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on Friday about growing up just like them.
“I was fortunate to get to be able to take the seventh grade twice in a row,” Newton said, explaining he skipped more than 50 days of school in a row.
But his tale was one of redemption. A move to the U.S. mainland prompted a change in priorities for Newton, who realized his thirst for basketball success would not be quenched without the necessary schoolwork to get into college.
“It was like building for an NBA championship, which is our goal now,” Newton said. “You get there one decision at a time.”
He eventually would play in college at the University of Kansas, teaming with Danny Manning to lead the Jayhawks to a national championship in 1988.
After injuring his ankle during training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers, Newton went on to a couple seasons in Europe, before returning to the states for jobs with USA Basketball and the NBA.
Then, he caught on with the Washington Wizards front office and became general manager in Minnesota in 2013.
Despite dropping from a 40-win season to 16 this year, the future appears bright in Minnesota with Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine leading a strong young core.
Newton grew up with Delvin Duggins, now a staff member for Sen. Clifford Graham. Graham helped recently pass a bill to name the recreational center and basketball court in Bordeaux after Newton, who grew up in the neighborhood.
Shalaun Newton, who grew up in Kansas and Minnesota, said she’s anxious to get the foundation going and to make an impact at her husband’s home, which she loves visiting.
“I love St. Thomas,” she said. “I just love culture, I love the hospitality that we receive and I love the beautiful waters.”
Her husband’s words resonated, as did a few individual and small group meetings he had with students after the speeches.
One such student was Kean senior Kerrol Laurent, a multisport athlete, who is deciding where to play football next season.
“The main thing I got from this was goals and being able to go to college to be an athlete but also get an education,” he said. “That and to come back and help people that heave helped you and to help your family.”
Laurent’s been accepted to Global Institute of Technology in New York and Bethune Cookman in Florida.
– Contact Daily News Sports Editor Matt Schoch at 714-9117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Emerald Gems clinic
The Daily News will have more information soon about Milt Newton’s new initiative, the Emerald Gems Foundation, and the basketball camp on St. Thomas this summer. To reach organizers and express interest in applying, send an email to email@example.com.