Alex Abreu wants to play college basketball again.
And he wants to play at the University of Akron.
He’s just not sure if that plan will work out.
“Hopefully I’ll go back to Akron,” Abreu said Monday, nearly a year after the star point guard was busted on marijuana trafficking charges and kicked off the team. “That’s the goal and the dream. I would love to come back.”
If not at Akron, then maybe at another Division I school, he said, or he could turn pro.
He made the comments before speaking in front of more than 80 elementary school kids, parents and volunteers gathered at the John R. Buchtel Community Learning Center as part of the second annual Shoot Basketballs Not People clinic.
The free event, put on by DJ Mr. King, Kenmore Youth Basketball League, Essentials Basketball Academy, MKU Athletics and Young Black Professionals Coalition, is designed to promote a positive activity and steer kids away from violence.
“We all make mistakes and it’s a matter of how you learn from them,” organizer Steve King said about Abreu’s appearance. “Some of these kids need to hear the story.”
It’s unclear whether Abreu would be welcomed back to the program or even permitted to return to the school. A voice mail left with a UA sports official was not immediately returned.
Abreu, 22, whose drug arrest in March 2013 for being one of the biggest marijuana dealers in town was national news, said he is doing temporary jobs, playing basketball at the YMCA to keep in shape and working with the Team Jam athletic ministry program.
He said he “accepted Jesus as my savior” while in jail and relies on his faith now in hard times.
In his brief talk, Abreu urged the kids to listen to their parents, get good grades and not become bullies.
He talked about making a major mistake in his life but didn’t refer to the drug deals that ruined his college basketball career — even though one child asked specifically what he did wrong.
Abreu, who wore an Akron Zips basketball windbreaker, said he didn’t need to go into detail with kids that young.
Akron police arrested Abreu and another man March 7 after they accepted a package containing 5 pounds of marijuana mailed from California to the home of Abreu’s friend on East Dartmore Avenue.
He was later sentenced to two years in prison, but it was suspended. He also was placed on 18 months of probation. He said his appearance Monday was on his own and not part of his court sanctions.
His arrest stunned the community and came right before a matchup with Kent State and then the Mid American Conference Tournament. The Zips ended up losing by 46 points to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
After the talk, Josh Martin, 9, of Akron said he remembers watching Abreu play at the university.
Asked what he took from Abreu’s comments, he said: “There’s always second chances.”
Kids, parents and volunteers quizzed him after he spoke, asking him everything from how tall he is (5-foot-9) to whom he most let down (his mom and coach Keith Dambrot).
There’s one question that really bothers him: Why?
“I really don’t know,” he said before he spoke. “At the beginning, it started as something small and then just started getting big.”
Abreu, who’s from Puerto Rico, said he wanted to get some extra money so he could bring his parents to town and they could watch him play in the MAC Tournament.
“But after you get what you want, then ‘Oh, I can get something else, and something else,’ ” he said.
His ultimate goal is to play Division I basketball again.
“I promised my mom I would graduate,” added Abreu, who was a junior studying international business with minors in Spanish and sports management at the time of his arrest.
Abreu said he’s kept in touch with Dambrot and UA Director of Basketball Operations Dan Peters.
He also said he’s not a bad person; he just made a poor decision.
“I’ve done everything right for 20 years and I did one thing wrong and it’s going to affect me for the rest of my life,” he said. “One bad decision almost overshadowed 20,000 right ones. Which kind of sucks when you put it like that. The scale of my bad decision had a lot of weight to it.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.