NBRPA Member Harold Keeling Gives Back in Life After Basketball

October 23, 2013

By: Alyssa Nadelman

Born 50 years ago in New Orleans, Harold Keeling began his basketball career at Lincoln High School in San Francisco, followed by a sensational collegiate career at Santa Clara University where he averaged 15.1 points per game. Keeling was chosen by the Dallas Mavericks in the third round of the 1985 NBA draft. After one season with the Mavs, Keeling traveled overseas for an international career that spanned over 17 seasons and included many accolades and five championships in Venezuela. After his playing career, Keeling headed to Atlanta and opened the Rowley Residence Group Home.

Q:  When did you know you wanted to become a professional basketball player?
I think I was five years old. There was a basketball court in front of the apartment complex I used to live at and I went to play outside everyday.

Q: You had a sensational collegiate career ultimately resulting in an induction into the Santa Clara University Hall of Fame, how did that feel?
It felt fantastic. I was very happy at Santa Clara University. At the end of my career I was the second leading scorer in the history of the school behind Kurt Rambis. I still keep in touch with many of my teammates and coaches that were there at the time.

Q: What was going through your mind on the day of the NBA draft in 1985?
I was nervous … I think everyone is nervous on draft day. It’s like all your life you’re waiting for that moment. It’s an intersection that can springboard your whole life into a great direction or not. You could end up not being as happy as you would’ve liked during that day. I was hoping I would get drafted as soon as possible. I would’ve liked to have been drafted earlier, but I was happy that the Mavericks chose me and I got to play for them during my rookie year.

Q: While playing in the Venezuelan professional league you achieved several honors, which of those do you regard as your greatest accomplishments?
I won five championships there, so I would say that’s my biggest accomplishment. I was also the MVP of the league twice, but the championships were far more rewarding. It was also exciting for me to play on the (Venezuelan) Olympic team. I was afforded that opportunity because I met my ex-wife, who was from Venezuela where we had three kids.


Q: You currently run Alyssa and Brothers Inc. d/b/a Rowley Residence Group Homes with your wife Michelle, as well as your mother and sister. Exactly what led to the birth of Rowley Residence Group Homes?
My grandmother passed away when I was in my last year of basketball and my sister was working at a group home. My grandmother’s name was Ruby Rowley, that’s how the name Rowley Residence came about. She lived in the projects of New Orleans, where I was born. There she was seen as the neighborhood mom. All the kids would come over to play, eat cookies, drink milk, and spend their time there. So when she passed away that was the best way we could think of to keep her name going.

Q: The support that your group homes are able to provide to children and adolescents who are in need of guidance and help is admirable. Given your stature, how crucial do you think it is for you to be directly involved in the programs and services Rowley Residence has to offer its residents?
It’s very crucial. I’m there all the time. I worked 70 hours this week. I sometimes spend the night. I built full court basketball courts in both group homes, so we go out and play a lot. I have a staff of ten made up of my wife Michelle, sister, mom and the rest are close friends and employees.

The kids receive tutoring from public teachers Monday through Thursday. They come and help the kids with their homework. They see a psychologist twice a month and a psychiatrist once a month. They have group study twice a week, which covers a range of topics from sex, drugs, and family. I teach a finance class that helps them learn about budgeting – last month the focus was on buying school clothes. We have to teach them independent living skills, so my sister shows them how to cook, wash clothes, and iron. Then when they turn 18 they have some experience on how to live independently.

Q: How does it feel knowing Rowley Residence has earned numerous recognitions and rewards or awards for its exceptional work in community service?
It feels amazing. I never knew that we would be making such an impact on the community. We have done big things, we were nominated as one of the best nonprofit organizations and we got the opportunity to attend the Nonprofit Trinity Awards out here in Atlanta. We received the Atlanta Community Food Bank Agency of the Quarter once, which is a government program for nonprofits like March of Dimes, Red Cross, and churches. Remarkably, out of 800 agencies we were chosen.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, we drove several of the kids down to help give out food. We go on a trip once a year that we sponsor. Recently, we were able to take the kids on a trip to Disney World by airplane. Out of the 12 kids, 9 of them had never been on one before, so that was very exciting.