Bears, basketball and benefits

Scott delivers healthy message to River Hebert students

Andrew Wagstaff
Published on March 7, 2012
“Bear man” and basketball veteran Keith Scott visited River Hebert Elementary School on March 6 to deliver his message about the value of nature appreciation and physical fitness. He plays basketball against the students, including Michael Brake, here.
Andrew Wagstaff - The Citizen-Record

RIVER HEBERT - Keith Scott played his 6,015th game of basketball on March 6 at River Hebert District Elementary School.

The well-traveled "Bear Man" and ball handling wizard visited the school to provide a slide show to the students on wildlife, focusing on precautions to take around bears, wolves and coyotes, followed by a basketball exhibition in which he took on teams of three students at a time.

At 76, Scott seems to have not lost a step in the 40 years he has been visiting schools after a career in professional basketball that saw him play for renowned teams the House of David and the Harlem Aces.

"I used to go to high schools but now I mainly just go to elementary schools," explained Scott. "Playing basketball at an elementary school is usually a fun game and not too serious. When you get into high school, some of the students get too serious, and I'd rather just play basketball for the fun of it."

Retired teacher Rick Rhodes introduced Scott to the students, telling them how long he has been visiting the school, and that most of their parents probably remember his visits if they attended school in River Hebert.

"He was so dedicated, we would see him every year at different times, and he would often go to two or three different schools in one day," said Rhodes. "If he had a long drive in between one place and another, he would even sleep in his car."

Scott was just six years old when he started playing basketball in a schoolyard across the street from where he lived in Saint John, N.B., because he "couldn't afford to play any other sport." He played so much that he developed advanced skills and ball handling ability, enough so that he traveled to Florida after graduating from school, and tried out and made the House of David team.

After that he played for the Harlem Aces, for which he played 212 games, all of which the team won. But winning made no difference to Scott, who said he played for the fun of the game. He advised the students gathered to hear him in River Hebert to take the same outlook and take care of themselves.

"I've never smoked a cigarette, never taken a drink of beer or liquor, and never tried drugs," said Scott. "That's why I'm still playing. I'm 76 years old and I can still play basketball."

His games against the River Hebert students showed he still has a few ball handling tricks up his sleeve as well.

The student presented Scott with a card of thanks and a gift for his years of visits to the school.