By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 9, 2006
The dollars are adding up already for area schools selected by Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas and team owners Abe and Irene Pollin to receive $100 for every point the two-time All-Star scores this season.
Arenas chose 41 schools last week, one for each home game this season, as part of his Gilbert Scores for Schools program. Impressed by the gesture of the young player, the Wizards owners matched the offer and chose another 41 schools for the away games.
Tyler Elementary School in Southeast was first on the list and is slated to receive $700 for Arenas's performance in the season opener Nov. 1 at Cleveland.
Arenas, the fourth-leading scorer in the league last year (29.5 points per game), struggled to find his shot early in the game and did not score until the final minutes of the third quarter. He finished with seven points as the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers, 97-94.
Tyler Principal Michelle Pierre-Farid, unaware her school had been selected, said she did not watch the game but was pleasantly surprised to learn the school will receive a $700 donation.
"We can at least get one more laptop," Pierre-Farid said. "We have two, and we're trying to get to 20."
Arenas found his rhythm in Saturday's home opener, scoring 44 points against the Boston Celtics in a 124-117 Wizards victory. He will make a $4,400 donation to Neelsville Middle School in Montgomery County.
Neelsville Principal Dollye McClain said she screamed when she got the news. McClain said a portion of the money will be used to start a drumline in the school's music program.
"I truly appreciate what he's done for our school," McClain said.
Of the 82 schools selected for the program, 29 are in the District, 19 are in Montgomery County, 15 are in Prince George's County, eight are in Arlington County, six are in Alexandria, four are in Fairfax County and one is in Howard County.
"I have a chance to actually give back in this life," Arenas said. "When my career is over, I want people to remember me for what I did off the court as well as what I did on the court."
Arenas entered the NBA as a second-round draft pick in 2001. He is in the fourth year of a six-year, $65 million contract signed in August 2003 as a restricted free agent to join the Wizards. He is expected to gross more than $11 million from his NBA salary this season.
Over the past two seasons, Arenas has been the Wizards' most durable player, missing just four games. Arenas will donate $500 to the designated school if he does not play in a home game, and the Pollins will do the same for any missed road games.
Last season, Arenas's 2,346 points and two missed games would have added up to $235,600 in donations.
Arenas said he created the program, with help from the Wizards' community relations staff, so that his success on the court can benefit area schools, which can use the money to purchase computers, athletic uniforms and equipment or fund after-school activities.
The program was announced on the Wizards' Web site early last month, and schools had until Oct. 18 to enter a lottery. About 190 area schools signed up for the drawing, held with much fanfare Oct. 30 at Verizon Center.
With more than 130 of the schools represented by screaming students waving handmade signs and administrators wearing keychains in school colors, Arenas pulled school names from a gold-plated bin. Abe Pollin later used a blind draw to select the additional schools from those that were not picked during the initial drawing.
"I'm proud of Gilbert for initiating this wonderful program," Pollin said in a statement released by the Wizards. "Irene and I are just happy to be a part of it."
The schools that were not selected in the first drawing each received four tickets to Saturday's game. The schools selected to win money during home games each received 10 tickets to attend their designated games.
Nina James, president of the Parent Teacher Association for Glebe Elementary School in Arlington, said she usually does not follow basketball but is looking forward to the Wizards' home game against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 4, when her school will benefit.
"It's fantastic for our school," James said. "I hope he scores the highest number he can possibly score."