Archive for the ‘NCAA Basketball’ Category

Photo: Bob Jones University Athletics

Photo: Bob Jones University Athletics

“I just want to exalt Jesus Christ as much as I can.”

I was blessed with the opportunity to visit with Ray Holden, JR about his passion in life. Ray plays basketball for the Bob Jones University Bruins. This past season was the inaugural season for the Bruins basketball program but this also was the first athletic season for the University.  The Bruins play in the USA South Athletic Conference and are a Division III athletic program. Bob Jones is a Liberal Arts College located in Greenville, SC and has an enrollment of about 4,000 students. Ray is one of them majoring in Youth Ministry and playing basketball. He wants to exalt Jesus in every dribble he makes on the court and every walk he takes off the court. His passion is sharing the love of Christ with everyone around him. Here is his interview with me:

Tell me a little about yourself-where u from? family?

My name is Raymond (Ray) Holden Jr., I’m 19 years old, a freshman Youth Ministries major at Bob Jones University. I am a proud athlete for the BJU Bruins basketball program. I’m from the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland and I have five other siblings, three older brothers, one older and one younger sister. My dad passed away six years ago and God has blessed me with a great mom who is loving, hard-working, and amazing in all that she does.

What made you go to Bob Jones University? talk about Bob Jones a little bit please.

It was truly the Lord’s plan for me to attend Bob Jones University. At the time I was running away from basketball and BJU didn’t have a team but they do have an outstanding ministry program and that’s the primary reason why I was attracted to the school. Bob Jones is a Liberal Arts College with an emphasis on building their students up to be great men and women for Jesus Christ. The school does a great job exposing its students to a number of things whether its drama, operas, sports, etc.

Talk a little about your coaches.

I couldn’t have been blessed with a better coaching staff. All the coaches have impacted me not only to be a better player but to be a better man as I grow in the Lord. I have been given books to read and inspirational posters or text messages a number of times that have encouraged me to do my best for God’s glory.

I saw that you are majoring in Youth Ministry? Is that your passion?

Youth Ministry is the biggest passion I have! Jesus Christ saved me at a young age and has changed my life dramatically as a teenager. I believe that teenagers and even those who are younger are the future and reaching them for Jesus Christ can have a huge impact on the World.

What is your passion in life? Would you like to go to the NBA one day?

My biggest passion in life is Youth Ministry but I would love to play in the NBA if I ever had the chance to. Reason why is because it’s such a huge platform to share Christ with others. Sometimes I dream of being the Tim Tebow of basketball.

Is there a difference going to Christian college than a non-Christian college?

I believe there is a difference between attending a Christian College and a non-Christian College. I have experienced both and I am more appreciative of attending a Christian College because I am constantly fed the Word of God whether it’s through class, chapel, small groups, basketball or personal devotions. Also, the environments are totally different in a number of ways and at a Christian College you really don’t have to worry about a lot of things. Well at Bob Jones you don’t lol.

What is its advantages and disadvantages?

Some advantages of a Christian College are spending time in God’s Word in chapel every day. Opening God’s Word with a body of believers is a blessing and having that freedom to worship is a privilege. Another advantage is that there are a lot of people who share the same faith as you. Also, the teachers and faculty do their best to help you grow in Christ as well. In addition, at a Christian College you really don’t have to worry about things like safety or things being stolen. Some disadvantages of a Christian College are becoming “stale” in your faith. Sometimes it is easy to hear God’s Word and tune out the preacher. Another disadvantage of going to a Christian College is meeting people who think they are holier than others.

Tell me about the Bruins? Was this season their first basketball season?

We just finished up our inaugural season and it was a great experience. Even though it was our first ever basketball season we did a good job being competitive with most of the teams we played and represented Christ well. We also progressed and learned how to deal with adversity as the season went on.

Your theme this year was Know God. What does that mean to you?

To me, knowing God is more than just having a head-knowledge of who God is. Knowing God is knowing Him through experience and having that personal relationship with Him that is solid and genuine. There’s a difference between knowing of someone and getting to know someone. When you get to know someone you spend time getting to know all about that person to help build your relationship.

Tell me about your Spiritual Journey in life: Share your story of how Christ has changed your life.

Growing up I was a rebellious kid with a really hard heart. I honestly didn’t care about life and I was quick to step on someone else to get the things that I wanted. To make a long story short by experiencing things the hard way and through a number of circumstances God got my attention and I trusted Him as my Savior at the age of nine. I struggled living the Christian life because I was living a double life. Around my friends I would do things to make it seem like I was tough but in church I would put on a whole new facade that people could see and know that I was a believer. I was challenged a number of times through sermons I’ve heard to be sold out for Jesus and not live a double life like James 1:8 tells us. So, I responded and told God I wanted to go into full-time Christian service. Ever since I’ve made that decision I have moments where I struggle but God is always shaping me and refining me through the refiner’s fire to convict me of sin so that I can confess it to Him and repent from it. It’s an ongoing process.

When did you start your journey with Christ?

March of 2004 is when I accepted Christ as my Savior and ever since then God has been faithful and has been molding me into the man who He wants me to be.

Who instilled your faith in you?

My Youth Pastor Aaron Finley

Was there someone one in your life who influenced you spiritually?

Three men come to mind: My Youth Pastor Aaron Finley, my high school coach Chris Gorham, and a teacher in my high school John Gorham. These three men have always been there to answer questions for me or just sit down and talk with me on how to live a spirit filled life. These three men have influenced and inspired me so much growing up and I thank them for that.

Has there been any dramatic events in your life that has shaken your faith or pulled you away from it? If so, how did not let your faith been shaken and how did you stay strong?

Although I didn’t have the best relationship with my father, I think when He passed I struggled the most because I know he died without Christ. I was always questioning God and asking Him why did He allow that to happen. Shortly after I lost my dad my best friend since 1st grade was hit by a car and killed. I didn’t understand but I would constantly remind myself that God’s ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9). I also viewed the death of my father as God calling me to the ministry because our lives in this world are only but a vapor and if I’m going to share Christ with someone I cannot hesitate and think that they will be here forever because they won’t. So it has encouraged me to step up and share the gospel when I’m given the opportunity to.

Is there someone now that helps you in your spiritual walk?

My coaches here at BJU, my high school coach and my youth pastor.

Where do you attend church at?

Grace Bible Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

Did you ever have to choose between faith and sports growing up and today?

Yes, Steve Pettit my sophomore year of high school, that summer had preached a message on double-mindedness and I realized I was double minded because I wanted to play basketball for the rest of my life but also be in the ministry.

Is it hard to be a Christian and play basketball?

It can get tough because as a believer in Christ you always have to be careful of how you react to different things on and off the court.

Any great stories of how you have witness to others about Jesus?

I was in Chicago doing a basketball missions trip with my high school team and we made bracelets just like the wordless book bracelets with the colors-black, red, white, green, and yellow-but instead of string we used a basketball net. Anyway, we were doing some sight-seeing in downtown Chicago and someone came up to me and asked what was the meaning of my bracelet. I shared the gospel with the teen and asked him if he knew Jesus Christ as his personal Savior he said no. So I asked if he was interested in accepting Christ as his Savior and he said yes. That day in the inner city of Chicago near the Giant bean I led a teen to Christ, gave him a bracelet, and encouraged him to tell his friends the gospel as well.

Has sports challenged your faith or faith challenged your sports?

My faith has challenged my sports by testing me on whether or not I was really playing sports for my glory or God’s glory.

What does it mean to be a role model?

To be a role model is to be a leader or an example setter. These people have to be willing to lead others in a positive way, and to impact the lives of those following their examples.

Is it hard as a Christian athlete w temptations that are all around you?

It is difficult because people tend to place you on a pedal stool and soon pride will creep in just before you stumble. I try to remind myself daily that the pleasure in Heaven is far more and far greater than the temporary pleasures we can receive instantly down here on Earth.

Faviorte scripture? Faviorte song?

Two Favorite songs because I can’t have one haha are His Robes for Mine by Chris Anderson and Struggle by Tenth Avenue North. My favorite passage in the Bible is Acts 20:19-24

What verse has been the most powerful to you with your walk with Christ and how has it?

Philippians 3:7-8 says, “But what things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may WIN Christ.” The things in this world that I achieve and gain are nothing compared to what I can have in Jesus Christ.

What advice would you give my 11 yr old son who plays basketball but has to sit on the bench sometimes.

Remember if you quit now that will be the pattern of your life. Your time will come and once you are given that one shining moment make sure you play hard to please your Savior not man and God will bless you for that. 1 Cor 10:31

Any other comments you might like to say.

“What it all boils down to is that I’m a nobody who knows Somebody that everybody should know and that’s Jesus Christ!”

Ray tore his ACL and Meniscus recently. This is what he said about going through this ordeal in life. “At first I was a little down about it but I thought to myself maybe this is God trying to get my attention. When sheep wander away from the shepherd, excuse the analogy, but the Shepherd breaks the leg of the sheep so that the sheep would not wander away anymore and now has to depend on the Shepherd. God has something to teach me and I’m honored that He chose me to have this injury because He wants our relationship to grow.”

Ray is a great young man and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to share his passion with you all. I decided to start writing more about Christ and sports. The best way to do that is to interview these athletes who are passionate more about Christ than they are about the sport they are playing. Look for more interviews to come. Thanks to Ray for blessing us with his story and sharing with us his passion.

Christian Garrett (Photo: KU Sports)

“KU, there is no better place to play basketball.”

Besides playing basketball, loving God and living every day with a godly perspective is what Christian Garrett does at Kansas University.  A freshman guard originally from Los Angeles, California, Christian went to school at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Florida, his senior year. He played his sophomore year at Campbell Hall High in North Hollywood, California, and his junior season at Stone Ridge Prep in Tarzana, California. Christian joined the KU team last year on January 21, 2010.

Christian credits God with bringing him to Kansas University. In the fall of 2010, while still at IMG, he sought a school where he could start early, begin working out, and get better prepared for the game. Christian had scholarship offers from Alabama, North Carolina State and Harvard, but when he had the opportunity to visit KU, he felt that God led him to this place. It was a big step of faith from a young man from California, but for Christian it has been an extraordinary experience. Christian knew that KU’s program was one of the top in history of sports; however, until he visited the campus he didn’t realize what being a Jayhawk all is about.

Christian said, “Playing for the Jayhawks is awesome. The coaching staff is great, the environment is great, everyone works hard, and the fans love it.”

Lawrence is home away from home for Christian, as his mother Cynthia Garrett moved there with him. He stated that the difference between LA and Lawrence is that Kansas people are friendlier.  Also, he likes the area where Lawrence and Kansas City are located.

Having been taken to church at an early age by his mother who was strong in her own faith, Christian grew up a Christian.  Though he attended church from childhood, he didn’t actually comprehend what it was all about until he got older. During his junior year of High School, Christian started getting closer to God, began understanding more about Him, and realized the importance of living a Christian life.  It was then that he rededicated his life to God and began his spiritual growth. “There is so much to learn, and its unsearchable how much there is to know right in front of you.” Through continued studies of the boundless riches of Christ, he has continued to mature in his spiritual walk with the Lord.

Though it was his mother who introduced him to church, the one who inspired him and instilled faith in him was his step-father, Roger Charles. Christian talked about his step-dad’s spiritual journey, and how God put him there to answer Christian’s questions and to guide him in the right way.  “At the same time you have to credit God, the way he puts people or situations in your life, that you see his hand on you the whole time.” While his step-dad greatly influenced his earlier spiritual growth, both parents continue to encourage him in his walk with Christ.  Christian also gives credit to the Lord for having his hand on him.

“As I grow, all I can see is that it is all Him leading it.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, Christian attends IHOP, not the International House of Pancakes but the International House of Prayer. IHOP has been an enormous blessing for Christian since he came to KU.

In Calabasas, California, Christian attended True Love Worship Center where Mark Jackson, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, is the minister. Christian had attended there since his junior year of High School when he sincerely began living his life for the Lord.

As a child, Christian placed more emphasis on sports and less on faith, often choosing athletics over God. When he began to mature spiritually, God opened up his heart and transformed him.   He gave his life to God and got his priorities straight in all aspects of his life.  While growing up, sports were chosen before God, but now they go hand in hand.

Personally, being a Christian athlete is not hard for Christian. His teammates know that he is a Christian.  But, more importantly, they know that he doesn’t just say he is a Christian, they recognize that he lives his life for Jesus. “I have been showing some fruit of doing what I should be doing.” Christian seeks to be a light to his teammates and to be obedient to what the Lord wants him to do.  “We are all just one big family, which is awesome.”

In some ways, basketball was like an idol, but God used it to turn Christian’s life to Him. Through basketball, Christian’s faith has grown. On and off the court, Christian lives his life the same way. He constantly strives to walk with the Spirit and to be obedient to what God is saying. “There is so much throughout the day that God wants to get done, wants to speak to you about, and wants to be  involved in.” Christian wants to show his love for God in every possible way. “I just want to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and all my strength.” In the past, being on the bench and playing little in a game would have been tough for Christian, but now he has a different mindset. He focuses on God, His purposes, and what He is doing in Christian’s life. “God has a plan for everything.  He led us here, and I don’t have to worry about that.  It all takes care of itself.”

While visiting with him, Christian taught me that I need to keep a godly perspective on all facets of my life. Christian is an example for all of us to love God with everything we have and to keep our focus on Him every step of our journey.  For any Christian athlete, it is hard to live a Christian life with temptations all around you.  “Temptation is always there because of the world we live in, but as you are focused on the Lord there’s no time to even take notice of it.”  The greatest weapon against falling into temptation is prayer. Prior to each game, Christian prays and reads the Bible. He spends the time getting his mind right and focusing on Jesus. Also, before every game, the entire team prays together and repeats the Lord’s Prayer, a tradition at KU.  Moreover, they get together to pray when other challenges arise.  With all of them focused on Jesus, they will grow both individually and as a team.

FOE, Family Over Everything, is the motto of the Jayhawks. They are one big family, one that works hard and one always together. “It’s kind of a big part of Kansas basketball, between the coaches, coaching staff, and everyone, and the players.” Kevin Young and Jeff Withey have a faith similar to Christian’s, and they often study the Bible together. Jordan Juenemann and Christian have been close from the beginning, crediting God with leading them in the same direction. Christian shares his faith with his all his teammates, and God has often used Christian’s parents in reaching out to the players, praying with them, helping them grow in their way of thinking, and aiding in their healing. God is most assuredly working in the lives of the KU players.

The most powerful verse that has empowered Christian in his walk is 1 John 4:9-10:

 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

“It is not a thing that we do, or set of rules, or a lifestyle, but it’s just a reality that God really does love us, each and every single one of us. How could you not show that love back?”  Knowing that love, and that it means is so much more than what the world says love is, has truly changed Christian’s life.  The power of that love has been huge for Christian.

Christian gave me three pieces of advice for my ten-year-old son who plays fourth grade basketball.  The most obvious one is to keep working hard, be committed, and stick to it.  Secondly, watch players in college, the NBA, and on Youtube or videos and study their style and how they shoot. The last but not least bit of advice is to talk to God and give everything over to Him. Ask God for guidance in all things and remain faithful to Him.  When I closed the interview with Christian, I realized that one day I want my son to see the love of God like Christian does. Christian is a remarkable young man who loves God with all of his heart, keeps a godly perspective on everything in his life, and still gets to play basketball for Kansas. He is an excellent example for me and for my sons. I appreciate Christian for taking time out of his busy schedule to share with me his spiritual journey. I’m also thankful for his mother who has inspired me and has prayed for me as well. She made one comment to me in a tweet the other day that really made me think. She said, “We are all just normal folk, and Jesus is the real star!” Well, Roger and Cynthia, you have a real star in Christian who is shining the real star, Jesus, in his life on the KU Campus.