R.I native, retired WNBA player wants to build youth center for at risk kids

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois - A new youth center could be coming to Rock Island on the city's west end.

Brenda Atwater is a Rock Island native who wants to bring a new youth facility to at risk kids in the Quad Cities.

Atwater’s passion for basketball started as a child and throughout high school at Rock Island High School then followed her to Illinois Central College and the University of Texas at El Paso, which paved a way to a career in the WNBA.

Now, Atwater is taking her love for the sport to a new level.

Her dreams for the million dollar center would be built on an empty lot her father owns, near 4th Avenue and 11th Street in Rock Island, Illinois. The facility would be mostly free and rely on grant funding and donations.

“I'm not doing this to get money in my pocket. It will probably bring revenue to the city but it won't help me,” added Atwater.

The goal of the facility is to help at risk kids who need an extra push. The facility would also host basketball clinics, offer tutoring, internships and college resources and job training.

“Everything is shooting towards getting kids in the right mindset so they can think clearly and know there is a process after the struggle,” added Atwater.

Atwater says she can relate to kids struggling in school and with the pressure playing of basketball. She hopes her story will inspire kids to reach their full potential.

Atwater coaches Deangelo Shinaul who says this facility will help him get to college. He wants to play basketball on the East coast and make it to the NBA.

“Brenda is like my second mama. She's trying to help me get off the streets, get into college and play basketball,” says Shinaul.

Atwater presented her idea to the Rock Island City council to get the word out about her idea. Since then, she says dozens of people have expressed their support.

“I can open doors for other kids and say ‘this is how I got here and this is how the city helped me,” says Atwater. “The community does want to go forward in providing this for our environment on the west end.”

Atwater hopes to have the facility up and running by the end of the year.