Myles Turner, Mike Epps speak at ‘Making the Right Play in Life’ forum

A new series of forums for kids called ‘Making the Right Play in Life’ at Indianapolis Public Schools began on Thursday at Shortridge High School.

The series of forums are meant to inspire kids by providing messages from positive role models. The first forum featured actor and comedian Mike Epps and IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson along with Myles Turner.

“It’s something that is mandatory for our children to do is make the right play,” Epps said. “I come back to Indianapolis all the time. I try to be an example for these kids to let them know that I once was there not making the right play before. Now that I’ve grown up and I see what kind of effect I can have on helping these kids I’m all for making the right play.”

The forum provided Myles with an opportunity to share personal stories about the difficult decisions that were necessary for him to make when he was growing up as both a student and eventually as a professional athlete.

A particular message that Myles wanted to share with the students is that they should try to cherish this time of their lives. There are a lot of changes that young adults go through and it’s important to be prepared to handle that stressful time.

“I strongly feel that kids today don’t love themselves enough. Self-love is something I’ll continue to promote as long as I have a voice,” Myles said. “Whether we know it or not we’re all one split decision away from life or death daily. Our adolescent youth needs to be encouraged to use this time that they have in high school wisely and cherish every moment of it.”

It is a very difficult path required to reach the NBA and that is something that Myles talked about. It took a significant amount of hard work for him to become an elite high school prospect and ultimately to position himself to be a lottery pick during the 2015 NBA Draft.

“People weren’t really telling me how great I was at basketball at a young age. It was actually the opposite,” he said. “People were telling me that I’m too skinny, you shoot too much, you’re not going to put on weight, you don’t move quick enough. I didn’t really start getting ranked or recognized until my senior year of high school, so my journey was a little different from a lot of my peers.”

“Guys are put under a lot of pressure. Guys are being told from the time they are six, seven years old that ‘you’re the greatest, you’re going to be the number one draft pick, you’re this, you’re that.’ Everyone in their mind thinks that they are going to be the number one draft pick. They want to be one. My journey, like I said, was different. I had to work hard, I had to grind every single day. Twice a day, sometimes three times a day.

“I was fortunate to have a father figure in my life that was able to really put me through the reigns. Not everybody has a father in life. You have to seek refuge in a coach, a counselor, and even a best friend, find a mentor that is going to push you in the right direction. That’s what I did.”

Myles touched on the fact that he probably would have pursued a career in architecture or engineering had his pursuit of an NBA career not worked out. He mentioned his fascination with building things has not stopped just because basketball has worked out.

“If I wasn’t in basketball, I probably would have been in architecture or like engineering,” he said. “The way my mind works, I like to put stuff together. If you follow me (on social media), to this day, I still put together a whole bunch of legos and 3-D models, and whatnot, and a bunch of puzzles. That’s just how I operate. That’s probably what I would have gone into if basketball didn’t work out.”

There can be a lot of stress that comes with peer pressure for kids growing up. Myles shared with the crowd that even he had to be sure to stray away from those kinds of influences to avoid going down the wrong path. Choosing to surround himself with the right people was critical.

“The biggest thing for me man was just that I had so many dear friends in high school. Where I went to high school, it was like a huge family. It was like 5,000 students in one school. It was huge. It was multicultural. There was more race. There was only 40 percent white. It was more ethnic than we’ll say non-ethnic.”

“At the time that I was there, I had a lot of friends that went down the wrong path. Just kind of seeing some guys drug out, some guys abuse women, or guys, you know, just domestic violence. A whole bunch of stuff. This was at like 16, 17 years old like in the area that I was in, so it was like, I didn’t want to be like the next headline, I guess I would say. That was the biggest thing.”

“There is a such a stigma with black youth that they’re always caught up in stuff like that. Where I was at, the next day you would see someone you know and love in the news. I knew one little mistake, one little slip up hanging with the wrong crowd would send me down the wrong way.”

“Where I was from, I was respected. I was one of the athletes on campus. I went to one party in high school and guys and I remember when I showed up, everybody was like ‘what are you doing here? What are you doing here? You don’t need to be here.’ I think that kind of set me straight. Kind of knowing that I needed to get my own stuff going. I think just seeing other people around me’s failures is kind of what kept me on the right path. I knew I didn’t want to be that next statistic.”

The panelists were able to cover a wide range of important topics relating to the youth in the Indianapolis community. The stories that they shared as positive role models showed the kids that they are not alone in their experiences and following the right path is important.

WISH-TV’s Randall Newsome recorded the entirety of the forum and you can watch it below:

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