Wednesday morning at the Landers Center in Southaven, thousands of youngsters converged on the arena excited about getting to see a professional basketball game played in front of them.
Little did they know that they were also going to learn about how to better handle their allowance money at the same time.
For the second straight season, the NBA G League’s Memphis Hustle played one of its home regular season contests during the daytime, as the team partnered with Renasant Bank for another Financial Literacy game.
Wednesday, the Hustle took on the league’s Western Conference-leading Santa Cruz Warriors before the young fans.
The Hustle lost 110-91 to the Warriors, but the 4,822 youngsters were the winners for being able to break from school and see a game, while also taking home a backpack full of items that could help them save a little more cash for today and their future.
“When we began our partnership with the Hustle last year, financial literacy was one of the components we really wanted to focus on, to be able to draw more attention to that with our schools,” said Shawn Clayton, President of Commercial and Business Banking in DeSoto County for Renasant Bank. “Each student here will receive a co-branded bag from the Hustle and Renasant Bank, as well as a financial literacy booklet that will be inside for each student to take home with them.”
Clayton said the booklet contained different exercises to focus on savings, the future of their savings and “what it means to be starting at an early age to really be mindful of their money,” Clayton said.
The day was also a partnership with the Mississippi Council on Economic Education.
According to MaKinzie Foos, Hustle Director of Business Operations, the team was excited to have the large throng of young fans on hand, but also to be able to offer an important life lesson for them.
“Financial literacy is something that’s so important, especially for our young kids of today that are going to grow up to be our future leaders,” Foos said. “To have 4,000 screaming kids in our arena is certainly a great thing for our team and for our fans. It’s something that we are looking forward to continue year after year.”
Clayton said about 500 tickets were donated by the bank to schools housing children from low-to-moderate income families. Foos said the others came from schools representing DeSoto County and beyond.
“We reached out to schools in DeSoto County and Shelby County to see if they were interested in coming,” Foos said. “It’s a combination of schools that came out on their own as well as other schools that were coming out with tickets donated from Renasant Bank. This year, I think we had about 1,000 more kids than we had last year.”
The Financial Literacy contest is one of a number of ways Foos said the Hustle are trying to become more involved in the community and area.
“We go out to the schools and a number of different pep rallies,” Foos said. “We go out to read to the kids or just show up. We try to bring some underprivileged kids who otherwise would not be able to come out to see a game. We’re trying to get involved in schools as much as possible so we can connect our players with the students. That’s something that we are fortunate to do in the G League, to have a lot more player interaction with the students.”
While the scoreboard outcome didn’t turn out in the Hustle’s favor Wednesday morning, it was a win-win for the team’s outreach to the community and to the kids who learned how to add up their dollars to make more dollars.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.