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Branch 'edutains' True Grit crowd

May 12, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Most remember Adrian Branch for his accomplishments on a basketball court - his days at DeMatha High School (when he was the MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game against some guy named Michael Jordan), his all-ACC days at Maryland and his 10 seasons in the NBA, including a world championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1987.

Outside of the bright lights of major college and professional sports, Branch has quietly accomplished something just as rewarding. According to Branch, in the decade since he last played professionally, he has spoken to "more than 1 million young people all over the 48 states."

"I'm in the right field," Branch said of his motivational speaking career. "I like these kids, and you just try to do your part to help."

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Branch spoke to about 200 people - and especially the 14 honorees - at Tuesday's True Grit Awards Banquet at the Four Points Sheraton. He shared his experiences and his message with vigor, humor and friendliness.

"You've got to be an edutainer," Branch said. "You have to be an educator and an entertainer, because if you're not, it's 'booooring.'"

Branch's speech had two main focuses - the ability to make the right choices and the choice to surround oneself with quality people.

"In your life, you're not born a winner or a loser, you're born a chooser," Branch told the audience. "You make your choices and your choices make you.

"If you hang around with champs, you become a champ. If you hang around nuts, you become a nut."

Branch had another message for the 14 honorees, 13 of which are high school seniors who will be moving on to college shortly.

"Right now, you're at the pinnacle of your success ... but in three months, you become a dweeb," Branch said, drawing laughter. "All of a sudden, whatever got you to the top, you got to keep doing good. ... Don't stop doing good. You made it to the top of the mountain. Keep doing what you're doing."

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