by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs
1/21/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Standing
6 feet 2 inches tall, eighth-grader Abad Senquiz III towers over Clark
Middle School classmates like Gandalf over a shire of hobbits. With his
stratospheric height came an avid interest in all things sports from a
Dabbling in other forms of competition, Senquiz didn't settle on
basketball until sixth grade when his pastime penchant turned into a
"I suddenly had a love for the game," Senquiz remembered. "I started
watching it a lot and realized, wow, I want to be really good at that."
What Senquiz watched was the New York Knicks storming down the offensive
lane bound for the hoop. For decades his father and grandfather, both
from New York, fired up the television to witness legends like Walter
"Clyde" Frazier and Patrick Ewing lead the Knicks to NBA glory.
Today, the younger Senquiz harbors hopes to someday lace up and venture
out onto the court at Madison Square Garden. Helping him strive for his
goal are the coaches and staff of The Youth Development Program, a
non-profit organization that meets at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's
Elmendorf Fitness Center.
Darryl Sample, TYDP vice president and a retired technical sergeant,
said basketball serves as a strong basis for an active and academically
driven youth community.
"The Youth Development Program helps guide and mentor youth in the
Alaska and Anchorage area," Sample explained. "We try to instill
confidence in their capabilities. We try to keep them active using
sports as a vehicle."
Sample said athletics is one of three pillars TYDP instills in their
youth, with strong academics and responsibility at home rounding out the
other two. Though coaches shepherd the effort, Sample said other youths
are instrumental in the process.
"Peer pressure can be either negative or positive, and we try to use
positive peer pressure," he said. "When it comes to academics, we really
believe that there are certain things you need to do before you come
out on the basketball court - that's do your job at home and do your job
"If those two things aren't in sync, then you can't come out here on the
basketball court, because it's a privilege," Sample continued. "We
really do believe in having your grades in order, and if there's a
concern early on, then we encourage the kids to let us know, so that we
can work with them to build their confidence up from an academic
Sample said TYDP offers tutoring services to young athletes like
Senquiz, who said he struggled with algebra. With the help of TYDP
tutors, Senquiz said it soon became as easy for him to find "x" as the
"This program has really helped me academically," Senquiz said. "Now, my
grades are improving, and I'm starting to become more focused."
That sense of focus is honed in all TYDP participants through a
disciplined focus on the fundamentals, Sample said, fundamentals like
ball handling and agility.
"We want them to be able to be functional on a basketball court," he
said. "Sometimes, it may cause you to move differently than what you're
During one practice, TYDP youth don't shoot a single hoop, because they
were laser focused on dribbling. The young athletes lined up on opposite
ends of the court and raced toward small orange cones. Their task? To
seamlessly pick up the cones without interrupting their dribbling tempo.
The competition motivated the youths to do it quickly, while coaches
watched to ensure they did it right. When one side won, the other was
required to complete a lap around the gym.
While the vanquished youth completed their penance lap, the victors
would beat their basketballs in exultation. It read like a scene out of
Lord of the Flies, but it highlighted the sense of teamwork and
accomplishment built into the program's methodologies.
Senquiz said he feels those methodologies work. Many talk about a
holistic approach, but TYDP's emphases on athletics, academics and
citizenship seem to fold into and reinforce each other.
"It was a lot better than I expected," the young athlete said of his
experience with the program. "They don't just focus on basketball, they
also focus on you at school and you at home. They want to make sure that
the things you have off the court are right, and they want to get you
better on the court."
Senquiz said he has suffered difficult circumstances off the court since
he joined the program. Coaches came along side the youth during his
travails, helping him to understand how the youngster's faith and wisdom
acquired through experience can help him successfully navigate life.
"Sometimes, I'm really glad to have had the problem, because now I know
better and I'm smarter for it," Senquiz said. "Through the experience, I
gain knowledge, so I know what to do."
Whether he's experiencing hardship or his life is smooth as the
backboard, Senquiz said he can put it all behind him when he steps onto
"When I play basketball, everything else is out of my mind," he said. "I feel really good about it."
For more information, call Arnold Dade, TYDP president, at 764-3010.