Semi-pro team about more than sports in Carbondale - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Semi-pro team about more than sports in Carbondale

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JACKSON CO. -- A Carbondale native hopes to rebuild his community by bringing a new sports team, to his old high school.

Professional basketball player Justin Dentmon has begun renovating the Bowen Gym Community Center to make it the home of his semi-professional basketball team.

But he plans on providing more than just a new gym.

"The vision, really, I want to give back to the community." said Dentmon. "It's just been that exciting feeling of the potential that this building holds."

Dentmon bought the building on W. High St. over the summer, and upgrades to the gym and locker rooms are already underway.

"It's a lot of ideas I want to do with it, but I know it's a process and what we're going to start off with is the gym," said Dentmon.

Dentmon has played on courts all over the world. Part of his big ideas, bringing that opportunity to athletes in his hometown by starting a semi-pro basketball team: the Southern Illinois Pharaohs.

"You know I've been on all these professional teams, so I know what it takes to build a program," said Dentmon. 

In addition to creating a home for his semi-pro team, Justin wants to create safe spaces for kids, on and off the court. He hopes the remodel will benefit the entire community.

"It's an opportunity to give jobs to people who are unemployed," said Dentmon. "It's an opportunity to get kids off the streets and help educate them, not on a basketball level or sports level, but off the court."

But his dream nearly turned into a nightmare. A few weeks ago, while Dentmon was playing in Turkey, vandals broke-in, and defaced his gym. They also spray painted racial slurs on the court.

"Being an African American it's tough," said Dentmon. "Trying to bring something back to the community, it was just like wow."

Dentmon insists, he won't let the graffiti get in his way. He'll move forward with renovations, scheduling a training camp to select the Pharaoh's roster, and giving kids in the community that raised him, a role model.

"I just feel like I owe it to them to help them get on the straight path, said Dentmon. "It starts off with just character, character goes a long way."

Renovations to the gym and locker room should wrap up in mid-February. The Pharaoh's first game tips off April 2 in Carbondale.

Meantime, police continue searching for the vandals who targeted the building. 

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