It’s easy to get stereotyped as an African American male in today’s society.
President Obama said at the 2009 NAACP that, “They might think they’ve got a pretty jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron James or Lil Wayne.”
That aspiration to be more than an athlete has resonated more in this generation than in the past, and Jordan Rayner, sophomore, is showing there’s more to him than playing on the hardwood.
Rayner is more or less your average student-athlete at first look. Wearing Yeezy’s, some shorts and a hoodie that he customized made for Ball4All. Rayner averaged 10.9 ppg for the Knox’s men’s basketball team, but that isn’t the most impressive accomplishment that the young man who attended high school in St. Louis has.
Rayner was inspired to help others when he saw his sister, Jasmin Rayner, playing against a softball team who had less than ideal equipment. Fast forward to the summer before his junior year, and Rayner had started to put action to words.
His junior year of high school, Rayner started Ball4All.
“Our mission and vision are to unite visionaries across the world through athletic and creative opportunities. Ball4All’s moto ‘create a culture’ pushes us to constantly challenge ourselves and to create circumstances that will undoubtedly allow us, as a people, to succeed,” reads the Ball4All website.
Rayner is from St. Louis. Well, he was born in Atlanta, moved to Virginia, then finally Edwardsville, Illinois, but St. Louis is where he spent his high school years. Rayner played at Chaminade College Prep, which is known for its basketball teams.
However, Rayner wants to be known for more than his athletic prowess. NBA superstar, LeBron James, coined the phrase ‘More than an Athlete’ after a Fox News analyst told him to ‘Shut up and Dribble’.
“I feel like that’s what I am, I’m more than an athlete. There’s a bigger picture; being an athlete is just one part of it. It’s not just about playing basketball and getting the win. It’s about bigger things than that,” Rayner said.
Rayner wants to break through that stereotype and that underestimation. He’s more than a guard on the men’s basketball team and he wants to show it.
“You kind get boxed in. People think if you’re not an athlete, then you’re not doing much. I tell people I started a nonprofit, and I feel like if I were a white kid, they wouldn’t be as surprised when I say that to them,” Rayner said.
“I like being underestimated because when you see me do things that inspire people to do better, it’s not something that you’ll see every day,” Rayner said.
Though he’s more than an athlete, basketball and the connections he’s made through the sport have also helped Rayner build Ball4All.
“A lot of people kind of knew my background and what I came from as far as athletics-wise. I knew a lot of people already who had their own different businesses and different organizations, and I reached out to them, and they helped me get started. You meet people, and then it grows from there,” Rayner said.
In addition to people who knew him for his athletic prowess, Rayner’s dad and coach also helped him. Chaminade Coach, Frank Bennett, aids him by letting him use the gym for various events or basketball clinics that he wants to hold. Though Rayner has graduated, the team still supports him while he’s at Knox.
“My coach lets me make gear for the team; they wore my t-shirts for their warm-up one time, so it’s pretty cool to see everybody supporting for a bigger cause,” Rayner said.
His dad has been a supportive figure and been there to advise him through his journey. He reminds him that it takes time to build a nonprofit up from the ground-up.
“My dad taught me all the legal things you need to start a nonprofit: 501c3, the financial part of it and also putting the seed in me that you have to build the foundation. Nothing’s going to grow overnight,” Rayner said.
There have been 138 homicides in St. Louis during 2019, and the State of Missouri ranks top five in firearm mortality. The majority of victims have been African American youth. St. Louis’s inner-city is like Chicago, Detroit or any other mid-west, inner-city. There’s a lot of youth who lack resources, and Rayner wants to help them.
Going to Chaminade exposed him to all of the different talents not only at Chaminade but in the St. Louis area. After taking Intro to Africana Studies at Knox, he realized the importance of giving back to both the St. Louis and the African-American community.
“[The class] kinda helped me understand the bigger picture about why we need to give back ÐÐ especially as young, black men ÐÐ to our communities and start investing in our communities,” Rayner said.
Rayner has ramped up the progress with Ball4All recently. The organization raised enough money to send the Rolling Rams, a wheelchair basketball league, to the national tournament.
Every year Jordan organizes a Ball4All All-Star game, which takes place at John Burroughs School in St. Louis. The event includes some prominent players from the midwest area like, EJ Liddell, (Ohio State Basketball player), or Mario McKinney, who’s attending the University of Missouri.
Even with all the good that Rayner has already done with Ball4All, this is just the beginning. He has bigger aspirations for what he wants to achieve through the nonprofit.
“The main goal in the city of St. Louis is setting up a community center for the youth of St. Louis. Setting it up in the heart of St. Louis right downtown where a lot of the violence is going on, but also there’s a lot of potential down there. There’s nightlife, sports, stuff like that, so I want to build a community center for the youth where they can come, and all different walks of life and interest can come,” Rayner said.
The community center, ideally, would be welcomed to anyone who has a passion that they want to work on.
“If you’re an athlete, you can come workout, play basketball, play baseball, come work. Do what you need to do; come train with trainers. If you want to be a lawyer, you can come, learn your rights. We want to have an administration for that. If you’re an artist come work on your art, photography come work on that. I want to give all these young black kids the chance to work on their passion,” Rayner said.
Previously undeclared, Rayner is going to major in business with aspirations to be an entrepreneur. Rayner likes to have ownership over things that he’s apart of and to see things grow. Running Ball4ll is an excellent start to that in addition to bettering the lives of others.