Wilkins’ return a slam dunk|Basketball star enjoys his trip back home to Washington

Published 12:08 am Sunday, June 20, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
Washington has many athletes that have risen to the top of the athletic stratosphere, but perhaps none are more beloved then Damien Wilkins.
While Wilkins, a shooting guard on the Minnesota Timberwolves, has risen above the competition to reach the top of the ranks, it’s his ability to come back down and hang with the rest of us on ground zero that makes him such a well regarded member of the Washington community.
On Saturday, at the Temple of Jesus Christ Family Life Center in the heart of Washington, the community got to give a little love back to a man who has never forgotten where he came from.
Wilkins, the son of long time New York Knick Gerald Wilkins and nephew to Pam Pack legend and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, was the center of attention at the Wilkins Appreciation Dinner hosted by his cousin Anne Latham.
The hall was packed with family and friends as several prizes were raffled off and various entertainers took the stage.
Of all the guest speakers and acts, none were better than the guest of honor himself. Wilkins closed the dinner with a touching, emotional 10-minute speech in which he recalled how the support of the people of Washington comforted him on a tough night in 2004.
“I remember on draft night I didn’t get drafted and I said to my mom ‘Everything is going to be all right,” Wilkins said. “Quite frankly I didn’t really believe that myself, but I knew somewhere not to far away there was a small town that had my back no matter what.”
Wilkins was later signed by the Seattle SuperSonics, which them became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Wilkins said he likes to come home at least once a year during the off-season and touch base with his roots.
“It always feels good to be back home,” Wilkins said. “It never gets old, it’s always pleasant to see family and friends.”
Wilkins, who in the past few years has done various acts of kindness in Washington including the wildly popular Fun Day, said that there are two things he must do whenever he’s back in town.
“First and foremost I have to see my Grandmother Callie,” Wilkins said. “Then I have to go down to King Chicken. Once I do those two things I’m pretty happy.”
The event was put together by Latham, Wilkins’ cousin, who after several long nights trying to coordinate the dinner was thrilled with the outcome.
“I’m very satisfied, it was a big success and we could not have done it without all the people’s help,” Latham said. “It showed that they do love and support him, and we just appreciate everybody that came out.”
Latham said it’s Wilkins down-to-earth spirit that makes him relatable to the people of Washington.
“He’s just a humble man,” Latham said. “He’s got a big heart and he would do anything for anybody. I think everybody appreciates him because he has gave back to the community for the last five years and that means a lot to them.”