Price is right
By Ell-Sean Smith
Talk about it in NJHoops Hardwood Talk
Many of us travel different paths in life and ultimately find what we're looking for in the very place we left behind. Meet Marzel Price, a man born in Martinez and bred in Pittsburg. A former professional athlete, Price traveled the world playing a game he loved dearly, but has spent the past few years in a career that has proven to be even more rewarding than basketball.
Price is a resident community services coordinator for the Contra Costa Housing Authority in North Richmond, a city with one of the most negative images in the state and Price is determined to change that perception.
Price was a star basketball player in the mid-80s at Pittsburg High on a team that advanced to the NorCal regional playoffs at the Oakland Coliseum in 1985. That year's tournament also featured future NBA players Todd Lichti, later a star at Stanford and a draft pick of the Denver Nuggets, Greg Foster and Gary "the glove" Payton of Skyline.
Price played two years of junior college ball at Diablo Valley College and Chabot College in Hayward before enrolling at the University of Oregon. Once in Oregon, he discovered a heart condition during a time when the sports world was becoming more aware of these types of issues, especially after college basketball star Hank Gathers of Loyola-Marymount died after collapsing during a game in 1990. Although the Gathers tragedy had no bearing on Price since he arrived in Eugene before Gathers passed, he was eventually rendered unfit to play at Oregon.
Ultimately, and with his condition under control, Price found his only chance to play at Huron College of South Dakota, a NAIA district-12 college, where the 6-foot-9 Price took full advantage, while becoming one of the nation's top scorers in 1989-91. He would parlay that success into a professional career that saw him play in Germany, the Middle East and South America. His basketball odyssey would last eight years and include playing for 12 teams in that span.
Marzel took his worldly education back to Pittsburg and started the Midnight basketball league as a way to try and keep young people off the streets and out of trouble. "I started the league through the Pittsburg YMCA in 1998 as a way to give back to the community I was raised in and help some of the youngsters, especially those considered hard to reach."
With his height and endearing personality, kids and young adults took to Price immediately. The father of six and husband (15 years) comes from the same streets as most of his young proteg?so he speaks their language, and he understands their dilemmas. Through this developing chemistry, the program became a success and later expanded to include educational services and crime prevention mechanisms. Price feels those elements are most critical since so many youngsters in areas such as Pittsburg and North Richmond come from low-income families where the father is not present in many cases, crime dominates the landscape, and education is not as critical as basic survival.
Although finances are always a big issue for such a community-oriented program, Price showed his determination to make it happen by learning the art of grant-writing with the help of a certified public accountant at a time when the league was in danger of elimination a few years ago. He also cites county supervisor and former councilman Federal Glover as an important individual who contributed in many ways to the program. As a result of his efforts and those from individuals like Glover, over a million dollars has been raised since the program's inception.
"The money is out there in such forms as community donations and local grants. You just have to be resourceful," he says.
Marzel's determination is proving successful in North Richmond as well. He says that in the near future an empowerment center will open in the area and it will act as a one-stop assessment center where locals can come and get information on job training, educational services, and familiarity with the information superhighway. As the world continues on a torrid pace toward digitization, these elements will become extremely critical, especially for residents of a community that is usually left on the backburner.
Also, he wants to use his contacts from the world of basketball to connect with local professionals like sports agent Calvin Andrews and the NBA's Drew Gooden (both are former El Cerrito High stars) in hopes of improving the facilities the agency currently utilizes.
"Reach one, teach one, save one is what we believe and it is instant gratification everyday," Price says. What more could you ask of a career?
Marzel Price – Founder & Executive Director
This innovative basketball program is inspired by Executive Director, Marzel Price. Marzel is a former professional basketball star that played for twelve years all over the World including Europe, South America, Asia and many other countries. Marzel has dedicated his life to making a difference in his community and across the country as a youth advocate, public speaker, counselor, coach, mentor and real life example of someone that succeeded in life despite all obstacles. He spearheads Project P.R.I.D.E. Recreation Center Located in the unincorporated area of North Richmond which is subsidized by the Housing Authority of the County of Contra Costa. Project P.R.I.D.E. is a youth year-round after school & recreation center that focuses on early intervention and prevention mentoring relationships to at risk youths.
Ronald Herron – Commissioner & Operations Director
ECMBL’s Commissioner has over 20 years of participating in team sports. He has a degree in Business Finance & Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. He has more than 19 years of experience in Project Management. Ronald has dedicated the past several years as a volunteer with ECMBL. Because of his love for the game and his commitment to giving back to the community, he has been a key contributor to the current success of the program.
Michelle Hersey– Executive Administrative Assistant
Michelle Hersey has been a part of the East County MBL Program for at least 5 years. Ms. Hersey is a respected member of her community in North Richmond and has been since 2003. She has served as Vice President of the Tenants' Committee, counselor, confidant and friend. Ms. Hersey has over 15 years of experience of working with diverse people and populations with a specialty of offering solutions. Ms. Hersey is an active volunteer at Project P.R.I.D.E. Recreation Center located in unincorporated North Richmond, where she mentors young women aged 15-22. Ms. Hersey's passion and goal is to give back to the Contra Costa Community at large. Because of her experience and passion to serve, she is an integral part of the East County MBL Program.