It’s a blessing any time a young man has the good fortune to grow up with a loving mother. I was lucky enough to be raised by two.
I was 11 years old when my parents sent me to Maryland to live with Nate and Melody Britt. Life at home in South Carolina wasn’t always easy, and my mom thought that a more stable environment would be the best thing for me. She knew that in Maryland I’d have opportunities, both academic and athletic, that I’d never get back home, so she selflessly put my future first.
That didn’t make me leaving home easy for either of us, however, especially because the move was a huge life change that I didn’t necessarily understand at the time. I didn’t have much say in the decision, and when you’re 11 you don’t really know too much about anything. In fact, I didn’t fully grasp how tough it was on my mom to watch her son grow up in another house until long after I’d left.
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I didn’t fully grasp how tough it was on my mom to watch her son grow up in another house until long after I’d left.
It was only then that I realized how much both she and my dad gave up to put me in the best position to succeed. Now that I’m a grown man myself, I can appreciate how her making the sacrifices she did is the very definition of being a good mother.
That’s ultimately true of Mrs. Britt, as well. Over the last 11 years, she’s gone by many names, but when it comes down to it, she’s my mom as much as anybody could be. With two kids of her own to nurture and raise, she didn’t need to bother herself with a third from another family, but she understood my situation and welcomed me with open arms, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.
Not once did I feel like a burden in the Britts’ house, and from Day One they made me feel comfortable and like part of the family. They accepted me and loved me for who I was and did so immediately. Both Coach Nate and Mrs. B helped me become a better person, a better man and a better basketball player, and I don’t know where I’d be without them.
Now, I know some people reading this will get the wrong impression about me and my families. But for me, growing up in two separate households never felt like a hardship, and my love never felt like it was spread too thin. That’s because my parents made it a point to remain a part of my life, while the Britts made sure I never forgot where I came from.
As I got older, my basketball schedule made it tougher and tougher to get back to South Carolina to see my family as often as I would have liked, but every summer I’d visit right before school started. During those trips, I always made it a point to spend time with my parents and my sisters, and they would come up and see me in Maryland as often as they could.
If anything, our two separate families grew to be one big one over time, and as a young man in what some might call a difficult situation I couldn’t have enjoyed it or appreciated it more. And that was never more true than it was last month at the Final Four.
It was already such a thrill to be playing against my brother for a national championship, so the fact that all four of my parents could be in Houston to witness the highlight of my career made the experience even more special. To see my mom in the crowd with Mrs. B and her custom shirt meant the world, and celebrating with all of them after hitting the shot of my life is something I’ll never forget.
As I watched that 3 go in and felt the confetti rain down, I couldn’t help but think of everything that both my moms have done to help me reach my potential. I thought of my mom teaching me the game as a young player and Mrs. B’s commitment to keeping me on the straight and narrow once my dreams were within reach. I reflected on the special bond I share with both of these amazing women and how they, as much as anyone, were the ones that made that moment possible.
And to be honest, they’re a large part of the reason why I’m returning to Villanova for my senior season. Earlier this week I withdrew my name from the NBA Draft, and while it was a decision I made for many reasons after talking with everyone from Coach Wright to Coach Nate, I kept going back to a promise I’d made my moms before I ever stepped foot on campus.
I told them I’d make sure I graduated and graduated on time, and after all they’ve done for me over the years to put me in the position I’m in, I owe it to them to be a man of my word.
So on Mother’s Day, I want to say thank you to both my moms. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. Thank you for not allowing me to settle and for pushing me be the best that I can be. Thank you for teaching me that home truly is where the heart is. I’m a DMV kid, and today Maryland is home, but I’ll never lose sight of my roots. My goal, now, as always, is to make you proud to have me as your son, and I’ll never take for granted how lucky I am to have both of you in my life.