03/05/2015 6:39 PM
The Austin Wildcats strive to be more than a basketball program. They get that from the president of the club, Darrel Smith
From organizing a tournament that raises thousands of dollars for breast cancer care, to managing up to 40 select basketball teams, to coaching the St. Michael’s Catholic varsity girls basketball team — which will play in TAAPS 4A State Championship this year — Smith does it all.
“I started Wildcats to make a difference,” Smith said.
In the 16th year of the organization, the Austin Wildcats have done just that.
On any given year, the Wildcats will have between 30 and 50 different basketball teams — many of which are coached by UT and St. Edwards students who eventually progress to professional coaching jobs — that compete on the select circuit. They also host a number of PrimeTime events throughout the summer.
Still, Smith and his organization try to build each player as a player, and as an individual, which takes an enormous amount of effort.
It doesn’t phase them.
“If you do it for the kids, everything is easy,” Smith said. “It can’t be about the money or time. We want kids to improve. We want kids to love basketball, and work hard at the same time.”
Their commitment to the kids is one of the reasons the Wildcats have grown each year of their existence. A difficult thing to do in a sport where young athletes change teams and programs frequently.
This atmosphere allows new ideas and opportunities to affect the community to flourish as well.
Philanthropically, the Austin Wildcats are unlike any other program.
One of their biggest ventures is the Tournament for Hope.
After hearing a good friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Smith thought to himself what he could do to help.
“Basketball is what I do best,” he said. “The idea just came to me, and I had the whole thing planned out in a matter of hours.”
Tournament for Hope is a yearly basketball tournament run by the Wildcats to raise money for breast cancer research. Everything, from court space to refs to concessions is either donated or volunteered to the Wildcats free of charge, which allows them to donate every single dollar earned to the Seton Breast Care Center in Austin, TX.
In the first year of the tournament, over $22,000 was raised. In 2014, the fourth year of Tournament for Hope, 80 teams participated to raise more than $45,000. Now in their fifth year, Smith and the Austin Wildcats are planning to have 96 teams compete, and are hoping to raise over $48,000 on June 13 and 14 in Austin.
If they reach their goal, the five year total of money raised for breast cancer research and care would reach $200,000.
“You can make a difference with one team,” Smith said.
His commitment to that principle, both on and off the court, is apparent to anybody who meets him.
It is clear, the Austin Wildcats are more than a basketball program.