This Year’s Honoree


The Michigan Jewish Sports Foundation will honor St. Cecilia and the Sam Washington Family with the Alvin & Shirley Foon Humanitarian Award on October 24, 2022. The award exemplifies individuals and families who have a strong athletic background in the State of Michigan with the spirit and enthusiasm of Alvin and Shirley Foon, one of the founders of the foundation.

Sam Washington Sr. stepped up after the Detroit riots of 1967 and opened the doors and welcomed the kids in the neighborhood. Sam Washington Jr. has run the gym for the last 17 years. Over the years many NBA players practiced at St Cecilia during the off season and the kids in the neighborhood watched and learned basketball from many of these players.

“The Saint” is a basketball institution where many great professional players started their careers under the watchful eyes of Sam Washington Sr. To this day players like Magic Johnson still cite the “Saint” as an essential proving ground for them as players. Jalen Rose continues to support the efforts to modernize St. Cecilia.

For some, the secret to St. Cecilia success was the pure entertainment value, the undeniable quality of and focus on the basketball that pushed everything else to the background.

But there was a method to the madness. As much as the likes of Derrick Coleman, B.J. Armstrong, Chris Webber, Glen Rice, Voshon Leonard and members of the Detroit Pistons milling about turned the court into a performance stage, tough defense and basketball IQ were emphasized. As much as tough play and intensity ruled over the gym, the professionalism of the refereeing on-hand graduated alongside St. Cecilia’s rising profile.

“You had to be a well-rounded player,” Jalen Rose said. “It wasn’t about just getting it in the hoop, it was about working on your game and trying to take it to the next level. We had so many players who were having success in high school, success in college, success in the pros. It was almost like an assembly line of terrific players that would continue to come through St. Cecilia. Jalen Rose immediately responded with the place and the coach that played a formative role in his development as a basketball player and as a young man: “It started at St. Cecilia. We had a coach there, Sam Washington Sr. He didn’t just send you out there to play. He worked on developing you, teaching the game.”

On the court a line of text painted on the hardwoods “where stars are made, not born”. For Sam Sr. basketball alone was not enough. He wants to fix the problems he still sees in the community around him. It is the reality outside the lines of the court that has driven Sam focus on much more than basketball. He talks about his goal of establishing an all-encompassing support system for local youths, covering education, mentorship, health & hygiene.