John, Travis Outlaw use game to help community

John Outlaw, left, visits with brother and former National Basketball Association veteran Travis Outlaw.

Staff Writer

John and Travis Outlaw have been searching for ways to help the community of Starkville and its surrounding area for many years and most of it revolves around the sport of basketball.

That’s something that the two have always bonded over and it’s been their way of telling Starkville “thank you” for what it has done for them growing up. With the Travis Outlaw Basic Skills and Development basketball camp always a big part of the summer as well as Travis Outlaw Day in Starkville, the two also give back in the form of AAU girls basketball.

It’s something that started a few years ago as John’s daughter Jalisa began to improve her game and basketball appeared to be in her future. From there, the team they’ve created has been used to help young girls advance in their game and their careers.

“Jalisa started playing and we didn’t really have anywhere to go,” John said. “(Travis) mentioned to me that we should start an AAU team because there weren’t a lot of places for girls to go, so we started it and have been trying to build from there.”

It was a big summer of 2017 as the team had several eventual All-Area standouts on the team. Choctaw County’s Brysa Maxwell and Starkville’s Jariyah Covington and Kirsten Thompson all helped the team do big things in events, but now they’ve all moved on to college basketball.

That’s made for a trying summer at times for Travis and John, but it’s been a way to continue to teach the game to the girls.

“It’s been a decent year," John said. "We’re a work in progress. We lost a lot from last year with some big-time players. It’s been a rebuilding year and a tough go at times, but they’re learning.”

So far this summer, the team has been to Mississippi State team camp as well as AAU events in Jackson, Louisiana, Memphis, Iuka and Orlando. Those have been positive experiences that have allowed the girls to grow as players and individuals as they see other spots around the country.

John has seen big things from rising players like Starkville’s Amaria Strong and Louisville’s Itiaha Patie. The team as a whole is made up of players from around the area, including from Amory and Choctaw County along with those already on the team from Louisville and Starkville.

The increase in exposure has allowed John and Travis to expand to two different teams and, while they might be rebuilding this year, it appears the program is on the rise.

Jalisa won’t be a part of the team after this year as she finishes out her senior year this upcoming season trying to win her third-straight state championship. For Travis, watching her grow as a player and young lady has been something that he said he’s thankful for over the years.

He’s treasuring the opportunities to continue to help her learn the game.

“It’s a blessing," Travis said of the relationship with his niece. "Me and her used to go to the gym and work out and now you’re seeing her hard work pay off and I’m just happy for her.

“At the same time, I don’t want her to feel like there is pressure on her to play this game. I’m pleased to be able to call her my niece.”