WILMINGTON, North Carolina – Members of the UNCW men’s and women’s basketball teams began working with local middle school children recently as part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) budding “Stay In To Win” program.

The NABC and Life Decisions Group, LLC, started the national dropout prevention initiative in March of 2012 to identify how determination and teamwork help students achieve academic, career and personal success. It is designed to motivate young students to make a strong commitment to education, character development and academic achievement.

Fifteen college programs were involved during the first year of the program and it reached more than 11,000 students in 32 middle schools across 11 states. This year, UNCW is one of 14 universities partnering with 18 middle schools in another four states and Washington, DC., to reach 9,000 more students.

“We were contacted by the NABC about participating and we felt honored,” said Houston Fancher, assistant coach with the Seahawks. The UNCW men’s and women’s teams visited Williston Middle School in Wilmington to kick off the program.

“We jumped on the opportunity because we can have an impact in the community. Williston is our pilot school, but we hope to expand it to more schools in the county in the coming years. The teachers and counselors at Williston are very excited about it, so we hope to make a difference with the students and have a positive impact.”

The schools participating this year in “Stay In To Win” include Butler, Cleveland State, Coastal Carolina, DePaul, Duquesne, Florida Atlantic, Fordham, Georgetown, Georgia State, Indiana, Pa., Iowa State, Jacksonville State, Lehigh, Marist, Mercer, Northwestern State, Oregon State, South Carolina State, St. Francis, Temple, Illinois-Chicago, UMKC, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Washington, Valparaiso and Vassar.

The Seahawk coaches and players will visit Williston often and help the teachers, counselors and coaches integrate the program’s keys to success in their existing curriculums.

“We’re a resource for them,” Fancher explained. “When they need us, we’ll check in and see how they’re progressing with the program. The counselors will do the bulk of the work, but we’ll be there to provide motivation, encouragement and reward.

“This has nothing to do with being basketball players. We just happen to play basketball. It’s more about performing a service, serving as mentors and encouraging the kids. It’s about how basketball success correlates to academic success and off-the-court success.

“Our players really got a lot out of our first visit. They had a chance to tell their stories and it was good for the students to hear what they’ve gone through. It’s good for them to see someone outside of their school that is successful.”