"I want you all to stand up and give him a clapping hand," said Coach Rudy Recendez. The boys and girls basketball team at Southeast Elementary in Fresno showed their gratitude Friday afternoon. "Thanks for everything you've done for us Mr. Sal Quintero," said one team member.
Students presented Fresno city councilman Sal Quintero with a signed team picture, thanking him for donating brand name sneakers to the entire team last month. "They were slipping and sliding all over. With the gripping of the shoes, they were able to do a full court press and that was one of the reasons why we continued to win," said Coach Recendez.
The boys team placed 4th out of 56 Fresno area schools this season, their best record yet.
Students in the low-income neighborhood were grateful for the shoes they say many of their parents simply can't afford. "They were kind of making fun of me because last time I said I never had Nike's before," said 5th grader, Sonny Garcia.
When we last caught up with Sonny, he was wearing worn out sneakers with holes - a stark difference to the shoes he now has. He says the new kicks gave him a boost of confidence, both on and off the court. "It made me feel taller and it made me kind of run faster," said Sonny.
Quintero grew up in this neighborhood, so he says he can relate with many of the kids. "I played sports, that was kind of the outlet for me. A lot of after school activities and you wear out shoes really quick, so it gives you a sense of teamwork," said Quintero.
And it's that sense of teamwork kids say helped improve their game and spirit.