In recent months, Rashad McCants and P.J. Hairston haven’t been giving UNC basketball alums their best publicity. However, another former Tar Heel star has been changing lives in his homeland since turning in his jersey at Chapel Hill and shows another side of life off the court the media has yet to show.
Damion Grant, a former UNC men’s basketball center and member of the 2005 national title team, has just returned from a week-long mission trip in Jamaica to run an annual basketball camp.
Grant, now in his second year as founder, conducted the camp and donated almost 150 pairs of shoes, along with socks, soccer and basketball jerseys to camp participants and their families.
Grant also partnered with faculty from North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount to donate purses filled with hygiene and feminine goods for the women of his native island.
NC Wesleyan SGA President Isaiah Morrow says his first time on the mission trip was an “unbelievable experience” and gives an account of one of the life-changing moments he experienced in Jamaica.
“One of the little boys that was there, probably about four or five-years-old, we washed his feet and he was laughing while we were washing because he was ticklish. We put his shoes on and he just ran around and kept looking at his feet. He was just like ‘I can’t believe I can’t see my toes, I can’t see my feet!’ and he’s just running around laughing and excited for the thing we take for granted for the most part like having some shoes on our feet. It’s one of those things that really stuck with me and stuck out on this trip.”
Morrow met Grant through an academic adviser, Kenny Dickerson, who was leading the trip, and has been volunteering with the camp since the first visit.
Grant grew up in Port Antonio, Jamaica where he grew up playing soccer, cricket and running track. He played up to his senior season with the Tar Heels until a career-ending ankle injury caused him to give up the game of basketball. Coincidentally, Grant was a roommate of McCants’ for two years while in Chapel Hill, but has not yet had any involvement or comment on the university’s current academic scandal.
Morrow describes Grant as a “great person” who is running this camp and donating to the people of his homeland “out of the kindness of his heart.”
“Number one, Damion’s a kind of person that’s not doing it for publicity, at all,” Morrow said. “While we were on the trip he brought all of his rings and it was one of those things where he gave hope for some of the kids that were in Jamaica.”
Morrow expects that they will be able to help more people next year, as Grant has solicited even more players and coaches to accompany him on the trip. They are scheduled to return to run the third annual camp on the 4th of July weekend in 2015.