🏀 Jayhawks Meet with Inspirational Speaker Damon West

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Best-selling author and college professor Damon West spent a powerful virtual afternoon with the Kansas men’s basketball team last week when he met with the Jayhawks on a video conference.

West, a native of Port Arthur, Texas, is nationally known for his keynote speaking, which is based around his incredible life story.

Following a college football career, West had a successful career working for the U.S. Congress and as a stockbroker. However, he later became addicted to methamphetamines.

Unsurprisingly, this led West down a path he never wanted to explore. He would be sentenced to 65 years in a maximum federal prison for crimes he committed to keep his drug habit.

While incarcerated, West had a spiritual awakening, which led him to a life turnaround. He was released from prison after just seven and a half years. His most recent book, The Coffee Bean: A simple Lesson to Create Positive Change, explains his turnaround.

West shared some of those experiences with the KU team in the 30-minute video conference that ended with a Q&A session.

“Results take time to measure,” West said. “There is no such thing as an overnight success because hard work, dedication and commitment are the only way to get to your goals in life. Most people in life are going to go through life by being comfortable and being stagnate and not growing. Growth takes place outside your comfort zone and most people are not comfortable with growing because that is painful process at times.

“The way I changed in that maximum-security prison was with my smile and energy. I approached every day like how I wanted to be when I got out of prison.”

West explained to the Kansas basketball squad that there are four things in his life he aims to control on a daily basis.

“You control what you think, what you say, what you feel and, most importantly, what you do, your actions,” West said. “If you focus on those four things, you will be a caretaker of yourself and your teammates. And that is going to allow you to finish strong.”


Kansas Jayhawks

West didn’t stop there.

He shared with the KU team advice from an older inmate that there are three approaches to how one handles himself in prison. He compared each with a pot of boiling water.

The first approach was a carrot, that would soften when placed in boiling water. The second was an egg, that would harden and become institutionalized. The third was a coffee bean, that when put in boiling water would transform the water with the application of heat and pressure, allowing the capability of changing the environment around him.

“What are you prepared to do with your opportunity each day?” West asked the Jayhawks. “Each day, get a little bit better, a little bit stronger and go out and test that way of being a coffee bean. Life is a pot of boiling water. You’ve got three choices on how to respond.”

Engaged throughout the video conference, here are some of life lessons the players took away from the session:

–Fear and faith are more in common than you think.

–You have the ability to change an entire group of people when you put our mind to it.

–No matter where your life takes you, good or bad, you can make a positive impact wherever you are, even if it’s jail. It’s just a mindset.

–If you have a good attitude and smile on your face, it can be contagious.

With the rise of social injustice in the United States, last season, Kansas men’s basketball instigated initiatives to educate and act toward these issues, an effort coordinated by KU Director of Basketball Operations Fred Quartlebaum.

One of the initiatives included the team visiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri on Juneteenth this summer.

Earlier this week, KU hosted JP Bemberger, who signed with Kansas through Team IMPACT, on an official visit.

Bemberger is a 16-year-old from Lenexa, Kansas, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of pediatric cancer, and underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery in fighting the illness. Team IMPACT is a U.S. nonprofit that tackles the emotional trauma and social isolation experienced by children facing serious and chronic illnesses.

In addition to the visit from Bemberger, the Jayhawks took time last week to learn from West. And he certainly gave them plenty to think about.

For more information on Damon West, one can visit his website at – https://damonwest.org/.