‘Goal’ tending: Moore Square teacher assistant Marcus Campbell with colleague Niki Cooper, left, and with students.
Marcus Campbell is seven feet tall. But that’s not the only reason kids look up to him.
Another reason is his sense of humor. He’s also a great role model, and oh yeah — he’s a former professional basketball player.
Moore Square Magnet Middle School students think it’s cool that one of their teacher assistants used to play pro ball, and that he has to duck to go through doorways – and they’re right. But his positive influence on their lives is ever so much cooler.
“Mr. Campbell is like a big brother to me,” said seventh-grader Keyshawn Hough, who credits Campbell with helping him in all his subjects. “He tells me if I don’t learn it now, life will be a lot harder for me.”
Kids like Keyshawn are why Marcus Campbell gave up chasing hoops for changing lives.
“When I sat down and thought about a career choice, I thought about not me as an adult, but me as a kid,” he said. “I always wanted someone to be there and someone to provide that leadership.”
Life had its share of ups and downs for Campbell as a youngster. He stayed in school, remained persistent and did his best on and off the basketball court.
All of that ultimately worked in his favor. After four years on a full basketball scholarship at Mississippi State University, Marcus headed to the pros.
There were several seasons with the NBA Developmental League, including short stints with the Bobcats, Rockets and Kings. After that, seven years in Europe (Italy, Spain, France), then Uruguay, New Zealand, Qatar and Iran.
Those experiences (including a brief detainment in a troubled Qatar) make quite the story in and of themselves. But this story is about a man who returned from one great adventure to create another one by making a difference in young people’s lives.
Strong male role models were scarce for Campbell growing up. He knew there were too many kids out there just like him.
That’s why he came to Moore Square, and also why he’s an assistant basketball coach at Middle Creek High School.
“(Campbell) is great at telling students that character is just as important as the skill set is,” said Moore Square Principal Kengie Bass. “He’s been a great role model for our students, and he’s willing to work with all students. We just love having him here.”
Campbell plans to finish out his career in education and coaching. And he’s got a very good reason for it.
“I sleep better at night,” he said. “Knowing that something I wanted when I was a kid and didn’t have, I’m now able to give it to someone else.”