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Wednesday / October 21.
  • NBA Champ Kyrie Irving Helping to Support Alma Mater St. Patrick’s

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    NEW YORK — When Kyrie Irving hit the decisive three-point shot in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that helped cement the first NBA championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers, more than 30 former players from his alma mater cheered wildly at the home of Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick’s principal Chris Chavannes.

    Irving’s bond to St. Patrick’s — now officially The Patrick School — runs deep. And in more ways than one.

    Not only is Irving a newly minted NBA champion who serves as a role model for all present and past St. Pat’s kids, but he’s also helping to keep the tiny Catholic school of 110 students afloat financially.

    “My connection to St. Pat’s is deep-rooted through Coach Chavannes as well as my father [Dred Irving] and as long as we can continue to support The Patrick School in any way, we are going to so I’m really happy that we have a championship winner in St. Patrick history, or The Patrick School history,” Irving said Monday in Harlem after Team USA was officially announced for the Rio Olympics.

    Irving, who made close to $15 million last season and is scheduled to make nearly $16 million next season, says it’s critical for him — and his fellow St. Pat’s alum Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — to help keep St. Pat’s alive.

    “It’s very important, especially if you have the means to do it,” Irving said. “I’m just thankful that I have a great support system and great financial team that allows to give back to our community and support those kids, not only just the athletes but the students that we have at the school.”

    Irving is a Montclair, N.J., native who transferred to St. Patrick’s from Montclair Kimberley (N.J.) before spending one season at Duke.

    He has maintained regular contact with his alma mater since.

    In January, when the Cavs were in New York for a Nets game, Irving addressed the St. Pat’s team and provided inspirational words after they suffered a couple of tough losses, including one to arch-rival St. Anthony’s.

    He then sat behind the team’s bench for a win over Rahway High School.

    “While the media and public usually view Kyrie’s connection to The Patrick School through the world of basketball, the truth is that he has helped our school and our students in so many ways beyond hoops,” Chavannes said. “Without question, Kyrie has maintained a connection to the program by attending games and practices, participating in open gyms, interacting with students and addressing the players before games in the locker room.

    “But, he has also made a great impact on the student body as whole by generously contributing to the school’s general fund and helping The Patrick School’s families in financial need. For example, one of our eighth grade students tragically collapsed and died during an activity in October, and Kyrie covered all of the funeral expenses for the family. I am very proud of the rapid success Kyrie has achieved on the court, but I am even more proud of and very grateful for how committed and loyal to The Patrick School community he has remained. He has taken his great accomplishments and the rewards that come from them and shared them with those in need.”

    Irving is one of two former No. overall 1 picks coached by Kevin Boyle, the legendary former St. Pat’s coach who now runs the Montverde (FL) Academy that produced recent No. 1 pick Ben Simmons.

    Boyle and St. Pat’s also produced former NBA player Al Harrington, along with Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 pick in 2012 out of Kentucky.

    Most recently, St. Pat’s product DeAndre’ Bembry went No. 21 to the Atlanta Hawks in this year’s draft.

    “I know he got drafted 21 to a great organization and to think about playing against DeAndre’ when he was a sophomore and we were playing at St Pat’s, and thinking about how far he’s come basically on his own temrs and the way he wantde to do it, that’s been his journey and I’m glad he can share that with his family for the rest of his life,” Irving said.

    Irving is also very tight with Bryce Aiken, who is headed to Harvard after serving as the St. Pat’s point guard the last several seasons.

    “I had Bryce at my house practically the whole entire playoff run,” Irving said. “So he got to see a lot of things firsthand, got to go to the home games.”

    Said Aiken: “It was a great experience for me. I got to see what it was like for Kyrie to go through the playoff run firsthand. He literally turned his dreams into reality. I couldn’t be more proud of my brother for what he has accomplished over the past few weeks.

    “As for the financial support that he provides the school, we, The Patrick School Community, are more than thankful. For him to be who he is and to remain humble and caring enough to give back to the school is incredible. He is an inspiration for many, if not, all of the students and it goes to show that life is bigger than just basketball.”

    Aiken and the St. Pat’s kids also watched on TV as Irving marched in the parade in Cleveland along with LeBron James and New Jersey native J.R. Smith, the former St. Benedict’s Prep star.

    It was the craziest thing I’ve een in my life, hands down,” Irving said of the parade. “Other than seeing the [Larry O’Brien] trophy for the first time in my life, holding it, that parade was unbelievable and thinking about what Cleveland had to endure.

    “I don’t want to call that documentary [“Believeland”] that they did about Cleveland sports BS, but I’m glad that they can rewrite that documentary.”

    In August, Irving and Team USA will compete in the Olympics in Rio, and he’s looking forward to the next challenge after winning an NBA title.

    “It’s gonna be a bond that we’ll be connected with forever,” he said of his teammates, including Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. “A team put together of MVPs, All-Stars, championship winners and great quality guys that have been part of USA Basketball if not for the first time then for multiple years before this,” he said. “We got a few young guys on this team, including myself. I’m really excited for them to have this opportunity, including myself.”

    And if all goes according to the plan, the St. Pat’s kids will be rooting for Irving in the gold-medal game just as they did in the NBA Finals.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.