By Eric Butler
The difference between winning and losing can sometimes come down to one key player.
The chance to play, though, can sometimes hinge on a crucial benefactor — and the Clovis Wildcats 14 & under team has one in Ray Allen of the Seattle Supersonics.
After winning the 17 & under AAU state basketball last month, the Clovis Heat decided to forgo a trip to the national tournament in Orlando, Fla., in part due to lack of funding.
But the 14 & under Wildcats will be making the trip to Clarksville, Tenn. for nationals in their age group next month, in large measure part because of Allen.
The Wildcats captured the West Texas-New Mexico Phenoms League postseason championship Tuesday with a 46-43 win over Portales.
Allen’s cousin is Cheryl Blackmon, whose daughter Brittany plays for the 14 & under group. According to Blackmon, Allen has donated $5,000 in each of the past three years so that Clovis teams could afford to play in national tournaments.
The winner of the 2002-03 NBA Joe Dumars Award for sportsmanship, Allen led the Sonics last season with 24.5 points per game.
“When my daughter got on the team, four years ago when we moved here, that’s when he started donating,” Cheryl Blackmon said. “He wanted her to stay in sports. Anything we need, he’s there for us.”