Posts Tagged ‘Columbia Park’

Release: Born Ready Project Makes Stop Where Len Bias Learned Basketball

January 29, 2014


Xtreme Teens Speech Set for Columbia Park Recreation Center

Teens in Prince George’s County will soon have a chance to learn about the rich legacy of Len Bias where he learned how to play basketball.  A Born Ready Project speech for the Xtreme Teens program in Prince George’s County, MD, will take place at the Columbia Park Recreation Center on February 7. It’s at that center where Bias, the former University of Maryland basketball star, developed his game while a teenager.

Dave Ungrady, author of the book, Born Ready: The Mixed Legacy of Len Bias  and developer of the Born Ready Project, will speak about decision making to members of the Xtreme Teens Program. The speech begins at 8 p.m.

Bias grew up in Columbia Park a few blocks from the recreation center and started playing basketball there while in middle school. Bias famously was not selected for his middle school team twice, and he used those disappointments as motivation to become a dominant player.

“When he was young, kids used to laugh at him when he played basketball,” says Lee Madkins, the director of the Columbia Park Recreation Center during Bias’s youth. “They never picked him on a team. Then he ended up with everyone wanting him on their team.”

During the speech, the teens will learn leadership tools that help them increase their confidence in decision making. These lessons are drawn from the legacy of Bias, whose choices resulted in superb athletic performances on the court but tragic consequences off the court, when he died of a cocaine overdose in 1986.

The speech is one of six scheduled for Xtreme Teens through March at MNCPPC facilities. They began in early January. Xtreme Teens, managed by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, provides programs, classes, facilities and other fun things to do for teens ages 13-17 and pre-teens 10-12 in Prince Georges County.

The Born Ready Project helps teenagers and adults achieve their greatness, by teaching them life skills and leadership skills to make good decisions and act resilient. Decision making and resilience are important to achieving success.

For more information about the Born Ready Project, contact Dave Ungrady, or 703-282-5259. For more information about Xtreme Teens, contact Stephen Makle, or 301-446-3408.

The Intimidator

October 4, 2013

As a teenager Len Bias showed the raw talents that would make him on of the most feared players in college. 

It took a while for Bias to grow into his body and develop his superior talents. “When he was young, kids used to laugh at him when he played basketball,” said Lee Madkins, the director of the Columbia Recreation Center during Bias’ youth, in a Washington Post report soon after the player’s death. “They never picked him on a team. Then he ended up with everyone wanting him on their team.”

It took only a couple of months for Bias to adapt to the physical play, and soon he became the intimidator on Columbia Park’s 16-and-under traveling team. In order to set the tone at the beginning of each game during his first summer with the team, he played a role: Columbia Park purposely let opponents win the opening tip so Bias could block or goal-tend their opening shot. As Waller remembers, it helped Columbia Park win every game that summer. Bias also showed his athleticism for his age by finishing off alley-oops.

He was the only player on the team who had the leaps to complete the play. Columbia Park felt so confident that players on the bench would read the newspaper toward the end of runaway games. “At that age, we didn’t think if it was embarrassing for the other team,” says Waller.

Excerpted from the book, Born Ready: the Mixed Legacy of Len Bias


Donate to a crowdfund campaign that supports production of a documentary about the legacy of Len Bias.

Learn about the 34+1 campaign,  which promotes effective decision making for teenagers and young adults. 

Finding A Mentor

October 1, 2013


While in ninth grade, Len Bias met Johnnie Walker, who convinced Len to start playing basketball with other boys at “The Rec”, where Walker was a coach. 

Walker played two years of varsity basketball at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, graduating in 1978. While putting off college for a year, he volunteered as a coach at The Rec, monitoring basketball activities for neighborhood kids and preparing his players for the center’s summer league team. He taught them fundamentals and conditioning with innovative exercises, such as plyometrics, which he learned from Bob Wagner, his former coach at Northwestern. Wagner wanted to build his new program with the best available talent, so he alerted Walker to keep an eye out for Len Bias, a young player at nearby Greenbelt Middle School whom he had heard showed promising talent.

During practice one day in the winter of 1979, some kid kept peeking through the doors to the gym at The Rec, yelling to his friend Terrence Lewis. Walker scolded Lewis, telling him to ignore the kid and pay attention. The interloper finally gave up and left.

“Who was that?” Walker eventually asked out loud.

“That’s Leonard Bias,” someone said.

A few months later, while walking to The Rec, Walker spotted Bias riding a bike and approached the ninth-grader, saying he understood that he played for Greenbelt Middle School. Bias tried to sell himself to Walker, saying he was better than Lewis. He told Walker that his parents didn’t let him leave the street much without their supervision, so Walker offered to talk with them and receive permission to serve as his guardian to, from and while he was at The Rec, if he was interested in joining the group. Walker could stop by the Bias house, he told the young man, and meet him so the two could walk to The Rec together. “They said yes, but don’t you think his dad didn’t come up and check on him,” says Walker.


Excerpted from the book, Born Ready: the Mixed Legacy of Len Bias

Donate to a crowdfund campaign that supports production of a documentary about the legacy of Len Bias.

Learn about the 34+1 campaign,  which promotes effective decision making for teenagers and young adults.