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LEGEND READY TO INSPIRE

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By Robert Balajadia

Legendary Chaminade head basketball coach Merv Lopes.

Basketball coach Merv Lopes led the Chaminade Silverswords to the improbable upset of then-No.1 Virginia Cavaliers and Ralph Sampson in 1982. (photo by Asha Robles.)

The 2013 Shieh Scholar Athlete Award will be presented on May 30 with legendary former Chaminade Silverswords basketball head coach Merv Lopes making an appearance as the keynote speaker.

Lopes is most famous for coaching the 1982 Silverswords basketball team when they defeated the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers 77-72, who were the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.  The upset was widely considered the greatest upset in college basketball history although few people have seen it due to the games lack of media coverage.

Coach Lopes was inducted into Chaminade’s Hall of Fame last year.

This has been Lopes’ third trip to Guam but his first time as a keynote speaker.

“I felt honored to be asked to be involved with the Scholar Athlete event.  Dr. Shieh has been very enthusiastic about his event and I am excited to be here, it’s an honor,” stated Lopes.

The South Pacific Games was Lopes’ first time on island where his team, Western Samoa, challenged Guam in the gold medal game.

The Scholar Athlete award is a prestigious accomplishment for Guam athletes who are able to excel in academics and sports.  Balancing the two are not easy by any stretch but Lopes has always had a philosophy on the approach towards school and sports.

“I’m into the ‘now’ which is to live in the moment.  If you’re at practice or doing school work then that is where you have to be.  It isn’t an easy task so in order to help [athletes] understand that I went towards a mental practice in teaching them how to be in the ‘now.’  That is the key.”

Lopes has been mentoring student athletes well over 30 years and he admits technology has made things easier for the students today.  He stressed that sports helps bring a level of commitment to any athlete which usually drives them to finish school proving that there has not been a drastic change in academic-to-sport lifestyle.  Instead, student athletes have learned to balance both quite well.

Lopes also mentioned that the students today have a greater advantage in academics saying, “all they have to do now is Google it.”

Merv Lopes giving his philosophy on how to handle school and sports. (photo by Asha Robles)

Merv Lopes giving his philosophy on how to handle school and sports. (photo by Asha Robles)

High school athletes who want to compete at the collegiate level of sports but do not have the grades to be noticed by colleges should not be discouraged but instead should work harder.

Coach Lopes gave advice to those athletes saying that, “I was one of those guys.  You have to network.  You do have to get involved with guys who are involved with their academics so you can communicate with them to help you get through the tough times as far as academics are concerned.  In life you have to network and get involved with different people. It’s important for them to understand that.”

Not all college athletes make it to be professional athletes.  In need of a life lesson, Coach Lopes considers himself a teacher above all else with coaching coming second.

“Basketball is like life.  If you teach them how to succeed in basketball then you teach them how to succeed in life.  If I can buy in with what we’re trying to do with their sacrifice and effort then hopefully it will carry over to their lifestyle and I’ve had some good feedback from my guys.  With that understanding, they don’t have to make a big change or adjustment.  It will all eventually work out.”

Coach Lopes will also be hosting a free clinic for 6th to 8th grade boys and girls from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 9th to 12th grade boys and girls from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Harvest Christian Academy gym on Friday May 31.

Find out the latest on who wins the Shieh Scholar Athlete Award Thursday night on www.guamsportsnetwork.com.

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