by Maurice Bobb / photo by Steve Boyle

The Riverdale High School Boy Basketball team is having the second best season in its school’s history. After each game, where they routinely outhustled, outmuscled and outplayed their opponents, the Rebels had to shower and dress in a dilapidated locker room replete with rusted orange, maroon and grey metal lockers and a long rotting wooden bench.

Not a pretty sight.

But then comes Dwyane Wade, who’s in town for the NBA All-Star Game, and the good folks at Gatorade, to save the day.

While the team was playing the second half of a game on Saturday (February 15), an impressively efficient crew went to work on the Rebels’ locker room, disposing of the metal lockers and replacing them with pristine new wooden ones, complete with each player’s name on them. The new lockers were based on Wade’s Miami Heat locker room and had a similar NBA-level feel to it.

After the Rebels felled Ben Franklin with a 3-point win, they were shocked to return to their new pro-caliber locker room and, of course, DWade.

“The locker room wasn’t up to par with what athletes need, and for Gatorade to come in here, in a short period of time and give them this experience, it’s similar to our locker room, it’s unbelievable,” Wade said. “I’m glad that I get to be here and unveil this for these guys. And for them to win the game and then come in here to this room is awesome.”

With their victory over Ben Franklin, the Rebels moved to 16-7, good enough to make the playoffs. Robert Mays has been the team’s coach for 17 years and during that time, the team has never made the postseason. It was historic for the team to achieve that kind of milestone. But to then also get a spankin’ new locker room? Well, that was the icing on the cake.

“This means a lot,” Mays said. “This gives them a place to come to, a place to relax, a place to bond. This is a big upgrade. They are going to want to come and be in this locker room, and that is really gratifying for me. And with this win, today, this is probably going to put us in. It is a big day for us.”

Making the All-Star team for the 10th year in a row meant a lot to Wade, but he said getting an opportunity to speak to the kids and surprise them while in town meant more.

“To hear their voices as they were coming in the locker room—you know, I was hiding in the back—it was a great experience,” Wade said. “Anytime I get a chance to come out here and talk to the kids, the aspiring athletes, I try to take advantage of that. Telling them about why I’m here, telling them about my personal experience, I’m always willing to do that. When you have a team, to get to be a successful team, you need commitment, you need mental toughness and preparation. Gatorade is all about preparing yourself before games. And that’s the one reason why Gatorade is involved at such a young age. That’s why it’s so important to give them this locker room and to give them a year supply of Gatorade. It’s a head start when it comes to preparing and fueling their bodies. Everyone has a grind in their life and this shows them how to prepare themselves for that grind. You have to fuel my body for what you’re about to go through—we all go through long days and we have to prepare our bodies.”

So there you have it. Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Now, thanks to Gatorade and DWade, the Rebels will be more than prepared to keep adding Ws to their record.