A fresh start

"While some inner-city youths have used basketball as a way out of the ghetto, the game has saved Beau Pilon's life.For many salvation comes at church. Beau Pilon's salvation has come on the basketball court.The lanky 6-8 forward finished his stellar prep career at South Kitsap High School last winter, earned his G.E.D. this summer, and is taking his skills to Yakima Valley Community College.It is Pilon's passion for basketball that has allowed him to escape a life no child should have to live.Surrounded by drugs, death, and crime Pilon said there's a lot he can't remember about his childhood.My toughest years were at elementary school, Pilon said. When I was in third or fourth grade, I was living in a drug house in Tacoma. I really don't remember much.Pilon grew up living with his mother, who has been in and out of drug treatment centers and prison since he was a child.It was during that time in the drug house Pilon's mother told him the father he knew as 'dad' wasn't his real father, and that his biological father had died recently.Pilon said his relationship with his dad, who lives in Seattle, got stronger after being told the truth.At that point, I knew he really cared about me, Pilon said. Pilon moved to Port Orchard in sixth grade and adjusted as well as he could, but home life was a problem.It was in ninth grade at Sedgwick Junior High basketball came into Pilon's life.I was always playing during lunch, he said. I wasn't the best kid, though. I tried out for the team and got cut.It was then Pilon and his sister Cory moved in with their father on his boat in Seattle for the rest of ninth grade and all of 10th grade.Pilon was ready for basketball tryouts at Ballard High School, but he broke his wrist.I was pretty bummed I couldn't play, he said.Pilon, who was 6-3 at the time, moved back to Port Orchard and got noticed by John Callaghan, the SK varsity boys basketball coach.When I moved back over here, Callaghan jumped on me, Pilon said. He really wanted me to play.Pilon said high school could have been easier for himself if he had applied himself more to academics.Because of some struggles at SK, Pilon spent the majority of his time at Discovery, an alternative high school.High school is easy. It was just a matter of doing the work, Pilon said. I had to just apply myself, but I was rebellious.After his senior year, Pilon was many credits short of graduating.But his high school eligibility had expired.During the summer of 2000, Pilon said he thought his best option was to move back to Ballard, finish up his credits, and register at North Seattle Community College.I dropped out, but didn't have a stable place to live, he said. (My mom's) boyfriend and I didn't get along, he said. I wasn't ready to move back with my mom. So I moved in with a friend and his parents.And with the help of Callaghan, Pilon applied for an extra year of high school eligibility, claiming hardship.Board members of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association heard Pilon's case and granted him an extra year last year.Pilon said being granted another year to play was the most important thing to happen to him.Basketball carried me along, he said. I had lost all hope. But Callaghan played a big hand in getting me going.Pilon said he not only worked on his game but he worked hard on the books too.All seemed to be going well until Pilon hit another snag.After school on a December day, a student was picking on his sister and in defense Pilon punched the student in the face.The offense didn't seem too damaging at the time. Little did he know at the time he would soon be a convicted felon.He was arrested that day but sentencing was suspended until April so he could finish up his school year.On May 21, Pilon pleaded guilty to third-degree felony assault and spent 30 days in jail. Callaghan said Pilon has been unfairly targeted.He's a good kid, the coach said. He's done all the things he's needed to do, and that's pretty amazing considering what he's had to deal with. He'll have nothing but success in the future.Pilon said he can't wait for the middle of August to roll around so he can get out of Port Orchard for good. Over here, everyone knows about me and my parents, he said.Pilon said he's not ashamed of the life he's lived. He also has no ill will towards his mother.We're real close, he said. We've had our bad moments, but I'd do anything for her.Though he has lived a life that differs from the norm, Pilon said he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He's too busy thinking about the future.Basketball has carried me along, Pilon said. I lost hope until I started playing. It's given me direction. "

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