Armstead beats homelessness to be 1st player from HBCU to receive Perry Wallace Most Courageous Award

Dollita Okine April 04, 2024
Armstead, who is on the basketball team at Fisk, will be honored April 8 at the USBWA Awards Luncheon at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. Photo: Fisk

Jeremiah Armstead will become the first athlete from an HBCU or NAIA school to win the Perry Wallace Most Courageous Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association on Monday.

Armstead said of learning about the award, “I don’t think it’ll sink in fully until I get there to the Final Four and experience everything,” according to AP News

Still, it has been nothing short of a battle for him to get to this point of achievement. Homelessness forced him to move around so frequently that he was unable to play basketball in high school until his senior year.

He never wavered in his faith, not even after spending a night in a beach parking lot with his family after moving from Philadelphia to California and discovering their new home had vanished. His family had spent several nights sleeping in their car since they were unable to find lodging or shelter.

But his struggles eventually brought him to Good Samaritans, who inspired him to never give up on his aspirations.

Armstead, who is 6-foot-5, was born in Atlanta and raised in Philadelphia until his mother, Mindy Brooks, moved to Long Beach, California, where they lived with a woman they could call family. However, that woman abruptly moved to Texas, leaving the family stranded once more.

After a few weeks of lodging in a hotel, they ended up in a Santa Monica shelter. To save fuel and money, Armstead’s mother waited in a parking lot for classes to end after driving him to school every day.

The shelter time constraints also made them move around a lot, making even practicing basketball difficult for a family focused solely on survival. During his senior year, they were able to secure some stability as they moved into an apartment for the first semester and into the second semester, allowing Armstead to hone his skills.

“I could just wake up at 6, go to school, catch the bus and everything,” Armstead told AP News. “I didn’t have to worry about my mom waiting outside in the car all day or anything like that. So the mental fatigue was kind of wearing off.”

Stephen Bernstein helped connect Armstead with Fisk through his foundation, We Educate Brilliant Minds, based in Los Angeles. Once Armstead landed in Nashville, he began eating better and lost at least 30 pounds in his first two seasons.

However, a school supervisor discovered Armstead was sending what he could home to help his family. His family at the time still alternated between shelters, hotels, and their car. In November of last year, his mother, brother, and sister finally moved into their own apartment.

Armstead is a wonder to his coach, Kenny Anderson, who was once homeless. Armstead’s basketball skills have improved thanks to the coach’s efforts.

“It’s satisfying for me to know that I’m helping someone that’s been in a situation like me,” Anderson said. “So Jeremiah’s, he’s doing a hell of a job just with his family, the situation. And he’s just a good kid.”

With 12 games played this season, the forward helped Fisk finish 14–16.

While Armstead’s family has a place to live, his mother is battling health problems. Moreover, she looks after his sister Armani, 14, who will start high school this fall, and brother Marcus, 18, who was hit by a car as a young child and didn’t learn to read or write until he was 13.

“I have seen the worst of the worst,” Armstead recalled.

The 20-year-old is now majoring in kinesiology and about halfway toward a college degree he never would have imagined being able to pursue.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 4, 2024


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