A Free Ride Through Free Throws

Maturity. Generosity. Compassion. Empathy. Class. Allan Guei has all that in spades at eighteen years old. The above ESPN video interview with Guei showcases Guei’s character while the Yahoo! Sports story below describes Guei’s heroic act.

The event – a foul-shooting contest for top academic students at Compton High School in Los Angeles – was created with a simple premise: Organizers wanted to show the kids at Compton how to create community spirit with college scholarship money as the incentive.

Following a tear-jerking gesture from the winner – it appears the true lessons learned were by the adults.

The kids in Compton are more than alright.

Three months after winning the $40,000 top prize, Allan Guei donated all of his winnings to the seven other finalists.

Guei, a star player on the basketball team who is headed to Cal-State Northridge on a full scholarship, said he felt the others could use the college cash more than he could. He wanted to give his classmates a chance to make their academic dreams come true, too.

“I’ve already been blessed so much and I know we’re living with a bad economy, so I know this money can really help my classmates,” he said in a release from the school. “It was the right decision.”

One that stunned Court Crandall, the man behind the event.

“What he has done is exceptional, just like Allan,” he said. “Like any young people, whether it’s my kids or someone else’s, you hope they are given opportunities to show what they can do. These Compton High grads have a lot of talent. They have a lot of drive, and I wish them all the best.”

Crandall, a partner at the Southern California advertising firm WDCW and a hollywood screenwriter whose credits include “Old School,” came up with the idea after watching his 16-year-old son play on a basketball team with some Compton students.

Crandall felt foul shooting was something that could unite a community regardless of racial divide. He felt doing it in Compton – a community battling an image problem – could help change those attitudes, too.

“I thought the free throw is a good metaphor in a world where there’s a bunch of lines that are kind of dividing us,” Crandall said afterward. “The focus became, how do we show the world another side of Compton, that’s more positive, beyond the stereotypical guns and crime stuff.”

Allan Guei was King of the Free Throws

The only requirement for the contest is that the students must have a GPA of 3.0 and above. After receiving nearly 100 applicants, eight contestants were chosen at random. The contest was held in March.

“My hope was that what started as a competition would become a collaboration with the kids supporting each other,” Crandall told the L.A. Times. “They did, but in the end they did that to a much greater extent than I ever could have anticipated.”

The students were filmed throughout the ordeal as part of a documentary that is scheduled to be released this fall.

One of the final scenes figures to be Compton principal Jesse Jones making the surprise announcement at the school’s graduation in June.

“Allan is a great basketball player, but he is a better citizen than a basketball player,” Jones said. “It’s truly a blessing.”

Even though Guei was a basketball star, Crandall allowed him to enter the contest to reward him for his academic efforts.

Guei would have been allowed to keep the money under NCAA rules. The other finalists, who will receive roughly $5,500, are thankful that he will not.

Donald Dotson, who also plans to attend Cal-State Northridge, said Guei is “a very deep, intelligent, and warm person.”

Dotson figures his gesture will pay forward.

“He’s going to go really far in life,” he said. “Because of what he’s done for us, God will bless him. That’s what life is all about; stepping forward to help other people.”

The irony in this story: Compton’s boys basketball team advanced to the Southern Section Division 2AA title game last winter before losing . The team was done in by poor foul shooting.

Court Crandall and Allan Guei during their ESPN interview

Here are the program details put together by Court Crandall, Executive Creative Director of Wong Doody Crandall Wiener, a marketing ideas agency.

Thanks to his son’s club basketball team, Court Crandall, WDCW’s Executive Creative Director, met a number of children from Compton who defied the negative stereotypes of this city and were bright and ambitious young men and women who simply lacked the financial support to pursue their college dreams.

Crandall created Free Throw, a competition that gave all Compton High School students with a 3.0 GPA or better the chance to win a $40,000 college scholarship. For the two weeks leading up to the ultimate competition in a packed Compton High School gymnasium, a film crew chronicled the hopes, dreams and hardships of these eight students.

Not only did Free Throw gain enough funding to give away one full scholarship, but it also raised enough money to pay each of the eight finalists’ first year of tuition at their chosen college. The biggest twist of all came when contest winner Allan Guei received a full-ride to Cal State Northridge for basketball and then elected to split his $40,000 Free Throw scholarship evenly between the seven other contestants. The project was covered on every local news station, as well as by the Los Angeles Times, and a full-length documentary will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in September.

And here is the two-minute video in which the Free Throw Challenge was initially presented to selected students.


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