Stackhouse’s best friend

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson -

Dallas Mavericks guard Jerry Stackhouse was all smiles when we had a long one-on-one chat in Jason Webb’s restaurant Yaku Japanese Grill at the Mall of Asia last Friday. He had reason to be happy. Just hours before, Stackhouse was on the phone with his agent who confirmed team owner Mark Cuban’s offer of a $21 million, three-year renewal.

Stackhouse, 32, became an unrestricted free agent when his NBA contract expired last June 30. There were feelers from at least three teams inquiring about Stackhouse’s availability but Cuban made it clear he wanted to keep the 12-year veteran from North Carolina.

“Yeah, Mr. Cuban’s my best friend,” said Stackhouse, grinning from ear to ear. “He just gave me $21 million.”

Status has never been an issue with Stackhouse. Before flying to Manila to grace the NBA Madness festivities, he was at his 78-year-old mother Minnie’s house painting the garage.

“Nothing’s changed,” said Stackhouse, the youngest of 11 children. “I’m still my mom’s baby. My dad (George) and my mom are doing fine, being very careful with what they eat because of their diabetes.”

Stackhouse’s two older sisters Jean and Lois died six years apart because of complications from diabetes. He’s aware that he could be tainted at any time. Jean left behind a 10-year-old daughter Nikki whom Stackhouse took care of. Now, Nikki is 26 and engaged to be married.

That’s how it’s always been with Stackhouse. He’s a family guy. Stackhouse takes care of his parents, his siblings and an extended family of over 28,000 residents of his hometown Kinston, North Carolina, where he supports the Girls and Boys Club and thousands of beneficiaries of the American Diabetes Association, the Children’s Miracle Network and the American Cancer Society and the faithful of the House of Hope Free Will Baptist Church. He even built a church for his mother who is a Baptist pastor.

Stackhouse left the University of North Carolina after his sophomore year to turn pro in 1995 so he could pay for his mother’s treatment for diabetes and breast cancer. But he swore to his parents he would someday return to campus and get a diploma. After five years, Stackhouse made good on his promise and earned a degree in African-American Studies.

“Both my parents have been sick with diabetes and I know that my playing well makes them feel better and that’s what I really play for,” said Stackhouse. “My mom is 78 and I don’t know how much longer I’m going to have her as a driving force so I try to lay it on the line for her and my dad every night.”

As for his own family, Stackhouse and his wife Ramira Marks, a former cheerleader, have three children – Jaye, 10, Alexis, 8, and Antonio, 6. He said he never influenced his kids to play basketball but they took to it like fish to water. The boys Jaye and Antonio are ballers and so is his daughter Alexis.

Stackhouse’s half-brother Tony Dawson, a former Florida State star, accompanied him on the Manila trip. They arrived Thursday night and left Monday morning.

Dawson, 39, said he used to beat up Stackhouse in one-on-one games when they were kids. “I quit when I was ahead,” said Dawson. “When Jerry started to grow, I stopped playing him. He got to be so good. We have some other brothers who played college ball but only Jerry and I played as pros.”

Dawson said he was offered to play in the PBA at least thrice but never got to sign up because of commitments in the Venezuelan league.

“I got to know about the PBA through Donald Williams,” said Stackhouse, referring to the former North Carolina guard who played as an import for Shell. “I found out later some of my NBA teammates played in the PBA, too, like Torraye Braggs, Sean Higgins and Cedric Ceballos. I think the PBA’s a great league to play in for guys who want to improve  their game and try to make it to the NBA or for guys looking to extend their careers. I know the competition is good and the fans are great.”

When his playing days are over, Stackhouse said he’d like to be remembered for his longevity.

“Playing 15 years in the NBA, that’s big,” he said. “I’ve played 12 years so far and I just signed a three-year contract but I don’t think I’ll be done after that. It depends on how my body is and how I feel. I think I can go on playing. Think Reggie Miller who had a long career. I’ve got good genes. I work out a couple of hours a day but I never overdo it. I’ve got some wear and tear in my knees. The secret is balance.”

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