As a New York City police officer, Gilbert Major developed a love for working with and helping kids.

When he moved to this area to work for the York County Sheriff’s Office after retiring in New York, Major wanted to find a way to work with kids and help them realize their goals.

“I worked with a cops and kids program in New York and really liked it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something where I could give back but also mentor kids at the same time.”

In 2013, he started the Fort Mill Knicks, a travel basketball team that began with two teams, but the success came early as his 10th-grade team won its first tournament.

The organization has since grown from two teams to six. This year, the Knicks have seventh-grade, eighth-grade, two ninth-grade and 10th-grade teams, as well as a mixed team featuring juniors and seniors. Major draws many of his kids from Olympic High School in Charlotte as well as from Lancaster, Fort Mill, Nation Ford and Clover high schools, but as the team has carried a tradition of success, the Knicks are growing.

They’ve won over 20 tournaments, but Major said word is getting out and more kids are coming to his organization.

“We get kids through other kids, through our website and they see us traveling around,” he said.

“We have nice uniforms, we have backpacks and I charge very low fees. A lot of the money comes out of my pocket, but we have success, we look good and I think that attracts a lot of kids. Also, we have organization. People see that my heart is in it and I do it for the kids. As I’ve started to get into it more, my focus has turned to getting kids college scholarships. I found tournaments where you get to travel and get the kids exposure, and I think that’s a big thing.”

Major said he helped get former Fort Mill standout Tanner Mitchell a scholarship to Lander University and former Nation Ford star Cameron Holmes a scholarship to Carson-Newman University, but he hopes to add to the list.

“The earlier teams we try to get them and mold them, but when they get into 10th and 11th (grade) I try to get them real competitive and in front of college coaches to get them scholarships and a free education,” he said. “With an education you become a better person, get a better job and that makes it all worthwhile to me.”

Major recently took his team of juniors and seniors to New York to play in the competitive Zero Gravity tournament. The Knicks beat a team from New York and New Jersey’s No. 3-ranked team on the way to adding to their list of tournament wins. Major said everyone played well, especially guard Paris Owens of Nation Ford, point guard Marquise Caldwell from Olympic and point guard Jkhari Miller from South Pointe.

“I was just going there to give them the life experience of going to New York and seeing the city,” he said. “I really didn’t think we were going to win the tournament, but we did. I knew we were competitive, but the kids played extremely well and shocked me a little bit.”

The junior and senior team played at the CP3 Live tournament in Winston-Salem July 15 to 17 and closes its year at the I-85 Circuit Finals in Spartanburg July 22 to 24.

Major said as the organization continues to grow, he hopes to continue to build its success and help kids achieve their dreams of playing college basketball.

“This has always been a football town, but I want to help turn it around and get these kids (basketball) scholarships,” he said. “It is something I love, it’s in my heart and I remain humbled and blessed to help others.”


JULY 19, 2016 9:19 AM
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