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Celebrating Our Heritage: Jerome Kersey

Honoring our rich heritage this Tue, Nov 13 vs Pistons.  Celebrate the 1990 &1992 teams with special guests Drexler, Porter, Kersey, Duckwork.  Tickets are available now click here.

by Wayne Thompson

The game of basketball didn't come naturally to Jerome Kersey.

Growing up in Clarksville, Va. and reared by his grandmother from the age of 2, Kersey was a scrawny-looking kid, not terribly tall for his age, and clearly not the best basketball player in his neighborhood.

He got interested in hoops in the fourth grade and worked very hard on his skills in hopes that the older players would let him play in the pickup games on the playground.

Then one day, when he was just 13, high-school-age kids let him play and he responded by scoring just about every time he touched the ball. "I just couldn't do anything wrong and actually I outplayed Carlos Bowers, the star of Bluestone High School."

"The other guys started kidding Bowers about being foxed by a 13-year-old kid and he got so mad, he threatened to beat me up. But rather than be scared, I felt good about it," Kersey said in a prior interview with Rip City Magazine.

As a player, Kersey was the consummate over-achiever. His work ethic was exemplary and his competitive nature was a driving force that kept him in the league for 17 years.

Asked where all the hard work and drive came from, Kersey said, "It came from my grandmother, Elizabeth Kersey. "I watched her go to work every night on the graveyard shift and then come home in the early morning and take care of the house without complaint," Kersey added.

Being raised by grandparents is a rather common cultural happening in America for many children below the poverty line.

In Jerome's case, his mother, Delores Florence, gave birth to him out of wedlock when she was just 18 years old. The people he calls "Dad" and "Mom" are his grandparents Herman and Elizabeth Kersey. They had six children of their own, but they took in Jerome and made him one of their own sons.

The Kerseys lived in a rural section of Clarksville, a town of 10,000 mostly blue-collar people. Herman worked at a saw mill and Elizabeth at a wool and cloth company and later at a candy factory.

Throughout his NBA career, Jerome was described as a hard-nosed forward who never backed down from a physical challenge. Unlike today's NBA players, you would never see Kersey hugging an opponent as teams assemble for the center jump.

"On the court, they're the enemy," he once said. "When I had my game-face on, it didn't seem proper to hug the enemy before doing combat. That's one of the things I don't like about the way many of today's NBA players interact when the game starts," Kersey says "It's just not my way."

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