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Undefeated Athlete of the Week

Kevin Durant will pay for four students’ college scholarships, showing he’s all heart

Brave, fearless and all agents of change, athletes will be recognized every week for using their platform for the greater good

New Orleans Pelicans fans probably hate the sight of Kevin Durant these days. Hate his wet step-back, his ballhandling, his cold-as-ice glare and that he’s virtually unguardable when agitated, which he was Sunday night during Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals when he dropped a game-high 38 points.

That’s KD, or “Slim” to his friends, at the office.

Durant standing in front of kids at a local Boys & Girls Club is a vastly different guy. He’s relaxed, engaged, open and giving.

Durant has forged a bond with the Boys & Girls Club of Redwood City, California, over the past few months. He first visited in December 2017 and later judged a Youth of the Year award ceremony in February.

On his most recent visit, Durant found himself holding court, asking the students questions about their dreams and aspirations. Alysia Demery, 18, told the Warriors sharpshooter that she wanted to go into the music industry. Durant nodded as if to co-sign on her dream — and listened intently as Demery told her backstory.

The teenager’s journey included a near-tragic chapter in 2016, when she was standing on the sidewalk outside of the Boys & Girls Club clubhouse in East Palo Alto, California, and a woman lost control of her car and hopped the curb, according to an article on MercuryNews.com. The vehicle slammed into Demery’s legs and pinned her against a fence. A pole smashed into her face. She could have died.

But as she stood there in Redwood recently, she was very much alive — giving a testimony that hit the Suitland, Maryland, native like a series-closing 3-pointer.

“I accidentally made him cry,” said Demery, who, with the help of a partial scholarship funded by Durant, will attend Loyola University in New Orleans to pursue that career in music. “I didn’t mean to make him cry,” added Demery, voted Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula’s Youth of the Year by a panel of judges that included Durant.

Demery is one of four Redwood City students to receive partial college scholarships, courtesy of Durant, this week’s Undefeated Athlete of the Week. The students, all members of the Boys & Girls Club in Redwood City, first met Durant during his September 2017 visit to unveil a new outdoor basketball court bearing his name.

For Durant, this wasn’t just a tax write-off. Durant is a Boys & Girls Club kid. Raised by his mother and grandmother, he started playing basketball at a local Boys & Girls Club in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Over the course of his nine-time All-Star NBA career, Durant’s willingness to create opportunities for students is well-documented. (He is one of 10 finalists for the NBA Community Assist Award, thanks to the $13 million he’s committed to various charities, most of them education causes.)

Durant is hardly the only NBA player — or professional athlete, for that matter — to regularly offer to inspire the next generation of athletes or accountants. Stars such as LeBron James (who is funding more than 1,000 kids’ educations with a scholarship to the University of Akron) have long maintained strong ties with their hometowns.

“I felt like it was something that I needed to do and I wanted to do,” Durant told The Undefeated on Tuesday. “Everybody needs a head start. I thought it would be helpful to the kids to take care of their first year. … I just wanted to make it a little easier on them. I felt like they deserved to be helped from the stories they had and the work that they put in day by day.”

Even Pelicans fans will appreciate this assist from KD. They might even grow to love the league’s reigning MVP.

Now that the series is over, of course.

Mark W. Wright is the director of special projects for The Undefeated. Born in England and raised in Jamaica, He sends referees running for the hills when they see the soccer dad (and Howard University alum) coming.