MOUNT VERNON — Former Ohio State basketball star Scoonie Penn stopped in Mount Vernon on Saturday to share his experiences with some young hoops fans.
Penn, who played for the Buckeyes in 1998-2000, was the featured speaker at Hoop It Up, a charity golf outing at Chapel Hill Golf Course benefiting the Mount Vernon High School basketball program.
About 15 kids and their families stayed after the luncheon to hear Penn speak.
Before college, Penn was a high school standout in Salem, Mass. He admitted he got in a little bit of trouble his freshman year. Penn doesn’t hide that fact; instead, he uses it to teach kids a lesson.
“On the court, I was fine,” said Penn. “Off the court, I had some things I had to work out. ... For my punishment, everyone (on the team) had to run for something I did. Obviously, the seniors and juniors were mad at me. ‘Look at that little freshman here. He thinks he’s the man already.’
“My attitude was pretty bad at the time. But the work I had to put in to get the respect of my teammates, my coach and my school was something I was embarassed about.”
Penn went on to play for Jim O’Brien at Boston College for a year. He then followed O’Brien to Ohio State, but had to sit out one year.
“I love Columbus. I do,” said Penn. “I go back to Boston and visit my family. But I like Columbus. The cost of living is better. The traffic is a lot better. People, in general, are much warmer.”
Penn led the Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance in 1999 while earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors. He played one more season, earning the Naismith Award for the top senior under six feet.
After his days as a Buckeye, Penn was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, but never made the team. Instead, he played 11 seasons in Europe.
“I played in Athens, Rome, Milan, Istanbul,” said Penn. “I played on some really good teams. ... Through my work, I was able to become a captain for my team in Greece, in Istanbul and in Italy. Everything came from the hard work. It came from me believing in myself.”
Penn spent the rest of the afternoon signing cards and basketballs for the kids and sharing stories with the parents. A signed basketball was raffled off.
Penn also had time to share one final bit of advice for the high school players in attendance.
“Enjoy your time in high school,” said Penn. “Don’t be in a hurry to get out.”
Several dozen golfers took to the course that morning for the charity event. During the luncheon, 2-liters of soda were given away to kids who could hit a free throw.