By Josh Frydman
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - For many, sports are life's great escape, but for Booker T. Washington High School senior Marcellos Anderson, sports was his salvation.
"I was on the road to destruction," said Anderson. "I just wanted to turn my life around."
The streets of South Memphis have driven too many off the righteous path. Anderson said he knows this all too well.
In February of 1994, his father and grandmother were among three victims buried alive in one of the most shocking murders in Memphis history. Anderson was just two months old.
"I never saw him," said Anderson. "It was tough because you can't say, 'my daddy did this for me, my daddy did that.' You can't tell him how you love him. When people tell you you look like him, you can't see for yourself."
Without a father figure, Anderson struggled to find a positive male influence.
"That was probably one of the reasons I was doing bad," said Anderson. "If I had a father, he'd probably tell me this ain't right, that ain't right."
"It was tough because my momma can't tell me how to be a man the hard way," added Anderson.
The hard way meant getting mixed up in gangs and what Anderson called negative friends.
"You can walk down the street and somebody can trip you, anything," he said. "Somebody can come up and say, 'hold this gun,' and they got guns and then the police pull up."
As a teen, Anderson was put on probation for aggravated robbery. In the tenth grade, he violated that probation and was sentenced to 13 months in a juvenile detention center in Pikeville, Tennessee.
"I was mad, sad, all the bad emotions," said Anderson. "That's ain't no place for nobody."
Anderson said jail may have been exactly what he needed.
"If I never had that time out, I'd probably be dead," he said. "I'd already been to jail, I'd probably be dead."
Anderson began to look at his confinement as a blessing and a chance to divert himself off the perilous path he had been traveling.
"When I hit rock bottom, I was like, this is the road I chose. I'm going to stay in the streets the rest of my life," said Anderson. "Then I hit rock bottom, rock bottom. I realized this ain't for me. I know I can do better."
Anderson left Pikeville in December, and something better would soon begin on the basketball court.
"First I was thinking about it, I didn't think I would make the team," he said.
His true passion is football, but after missing his senior season, basketball created the next best alternative. Three months into an undefeated season, Booker T. Washington head coach Fred Horton took a flyer on Anderson.
"My first practice I wanted to quit. I said this isn't for me, but he kept me on the edge going," said Anderson. "I ain't no quitter, but I ain't making no shots or nothing. He worked with me on my game, and he got me where I am today."
"He had that desire, that gleam in his eye, like I got this second chance," said Horton. "And I believe in giving the kids second chances, third, fourth chances, if they stick around and just listen. Because you never know what it could do for that child."
Just 12 weeks removed from jail, Anderson is making an impact on a state tournament team.
"My team keeps me going," said Anderson.
Anderson said it would have been easy to be resigned to his fat, but those days are gone.
"I've got to get my life right," he said. "This is the start of it right here."
Booker T. Washington High School will play Lake County Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in the Class A Boys State Tournament in Murfreesboro.
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