By Alex Byington
Fort Hood Herald
Ketia Swanier still remembers when and where she began her path toward the Women's National Basketball Association.
Two years into her parents' first stint at Fort Hood, a 9-year-old Swanier was given her own basketball net.
"I remember always going out there hooping on it, I was on my first basketball team here and that kind of got me started and involved in sports overall," Swanier said at the Champions 4 Champions Youth Basketball and Peer Leadership Clinic/Ketia
4Kidz Foundation Basketball Clinic Saturday at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
"And when we moved again to Germany, basketball kind of stayed with me and I noticed I was pretty good at it, I kept working at it and it brought me to where I am today."
Fourteen years later, the 23-year-old Phoenix Mercury guard returned to where she got her start to help those who are walking in her shoes.
"I was in these kids shoes - both my parents were in the military - and it's tough having even one parent in the military," said the daughter of retired 1st Sgts. Cornell and Rosie Swanier. "People don't understand how it is."
Combining her own charitable foundation with that of Champions 4 Champions to help support the service families on post, Swanier spoke to the more than 100 children in attendance. Through hard work and dedication, all things are possible regardless of their background, she said.
After leaving Fort Hood in 1996, Swanier and her family moved to Germany before finding a home in Georgia, where she graduated from high school and then attended the University of Connecticut.
Swainer graduated from the university in 2007, where she ended her career as the only player in school history to rank among the top 10 leaders in games played (142), assists (479) and steals (247). She dedicates her time during the offseason to helping kids.
"That's what its all about - giving back to them. Just knowing you touched one kid's life is amazing because it can take just one wrong turn and a kid can go down the wrong direction," Swanier said.
"Sometimes they don't listen to the mentors they already have, like the teachers and parents that are telling him the right things, and I can relate to them. And I think it makes it a little easier for them to understand."
For one clinic participant, Swanier's message rang loud and clear.
"She taught me that you should always put your education first and then you can achieve whatever you want to achieve," said 11-year-old Destiny Fairley, a student at Reeces Creek Elementary in Killeen.
Fairley also took in a lot of the Champions 4 Champions message, which stressed improving family morale.
"I learned that your family will help you through everything you need, so they come first," Fairley added. "And after you have the family supporting you, you can achieve everything that you want to achieve."
The clinics were part of the ALL-STAR program, led by former NBA All-Star and Philadelphia 76er Wali Jones. The program is meant to bring professional athletes together to motivate children and parents to make life better, using basketball to help teach problem-solving, goal-setting, communication and team-development skills.
"I thought today was an opportunity to not only have the parents interact and communicate and the children to communicate, but also learn life skills," Jones said. "(It's about) teaming up and that's what I think is important in life."
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566. Follow him on Twitter at KDHsports.