Over the weekend, The Prison Fellowship Angel Tree hosted a basketball camp at Central Christian Church in Mesa. This is an annual camp held for kids with at least one parent who is currently incarcerated.
Each kid was gifted a pair of shoes and a shirt while they learned how to play basketball from all kinds of coaches.
The biggest gift of all was the community aspect and the opportunity to hear empowering stories.
Brandon Johnson is a former University of San Diego basketball player, who spent a few training camps with the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards as he tried to reach the NBA. He was offered a contract with the Wizards in 2013, but when he went home to tell his mom, the FBI showed up and arrested him.
“I was so scared,” Johnson said as he spoke to the children at the camp. “I had seen my mom taken to prison before when I was growing up… when it happened to me my whole world changed in 30 seconds from one mistake I made.”
Johnson was convicted of multiple charges surrounding an illegal sports gambling ring while he was playing college ball at the University of San Diego. He was involved with the mafia during that time period. He served six months in federal prison.
Prior to attending USD, Johnson spent parts of his high school years homeless. Basketball was his way out.
Once he got out, he played basketball for multiple seasons overseas. Now, with the word of God and his life experience, Johnson offers hope and help to kids who have incarcerated parents and kids who have spent time in the juvenile systems themselves.
“These kids are everything,” Johnson said. “I hope at least one kid hears my message and knows that they can overcome any obstacle thrown their way through faith in God and a community who supports them.”
You can check out iambrandonjohnson.com for more information on his journey and nonprofits he’s created.