Before he became the NBA star and global sports icon he is today, Kevin Durant, a Seat Pleasant native, developed his game at basketball courts throughout Prince George’s County, including those at Bowie State University.
So when Wanda Durant, Kevin Durant’s mother, recently visited the A.C. Jordan Arena in Bowie, she took a quick trip down memory lane.
“I was somewhat emotional because I remember many games in that location,” she said. “The court was not only utilized for the students but it was also utilized by the surrounding communities. It was a place where we met lifelong friends, where we bantered back and forth with one another, where we watched our children grow and learn life lessons and skills that organized sports bring.”
Wanda Durant was at Bowie State on Dec. 12 to announce the Durant Family Foundation’s $500,000 donation to the university to renovate the basketball court, increase seating from its current capacity of 2,200, and upgrade the press box area. The gift will also be used to support the men’s and women’s basketball programs and fund a scholarship for Durant Center College Track members who choose to enroll at Bowie State.
Bowie State president Aminta Breaux said the contribution comes at a time when the university has a $75 million maintenance estimate that has been deferred.
“It means a great deal to the university,” she said. “When I looked at the level of competition where our student-athletes are and how well they’re performing on the court and in the classroom and I looked at our facility that has fallen behind where our students are today and where their needs are, this is huge. It’s going to have a huge impact on our campus.”
Wanda Durant said her son’s decision to support the Bulldogs was a no-brainer.
“It really kind of expands our vision for the legacy our family wants to create in the area,” she said. “It was quite natural that Bowie State would be a part of creating that legacy for our family. The community knows that yes, Kevin has a high platform, but he still knows that home is very important and that there are so many youth in the area that can benefit from a refurbished gym.”
Durant said her son’s desire to give is an extension of her grandparents Esther and Troy Durant and her mother Barbara A. Davis. Wanda Durant said her grandmother frequently cooked Sunday dinners for anyone in the community and her grandparents opened their home to those in need. Her mother continued that tradition.
“What they taught me was that it didn’t matter what you have,” she said. “The important thing is that you have an open heart and open hands willing to share with those who are in need. That’s what I learned from my grandparents and my mother, and that’s what my son learned from me. We want to continue that legacy not only for our family but for the families that are impacted by the things that we do.”
Bowie State athletic director Clyde Doughty Jr. said the contribution will help the department carry out its mission of opening doors for its athletes.
“Our first priority always is academic excellence, and this is going to help us ensure that we are in the space that we provide the greatest opportunities for our student-athletes,” he said. “Second, it’s going to enhance the ability for these fine coaches to recruit quality student-athletes who want to stay in the Maryland area. So those are our objectives.”
Durant’s commitment to the Bulldogs is another of his efforts to highlight Prince George’s County. In 2019, his foundation joined College Track to form College Track at the Durant Center in Suitland to aid first-generation and low-income students seeking higher education. In 2020, Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures produced “Basketball County,” a documentary about youth and high school basketball in Prince George’s County of which he served as an executive producer and appeared in interviews.
“This is home, and this will always be a place of endearment for him,” Wanda Durant said. “So it’s just been evident in the things that he’s done.”
Although there is no timetable for the start of renovations, Breaux said she is hopeful the project begins sooner rather than later.
“There is certainly a sense of urgency because we really want to give our students the proper facilities that they need,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming, and we’re so thankful to the Durant Family Foundation, to Wanda Durant, to Kevin Durant for what they’re doing here at Bowie State University and the example that they’re setting for our entire community. It means so very much for this leadership gift to come to Bowie State University so that others will see what’s possible and how it can have an impact.”