UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- The number 31 hangs proudly at the Carrier Dome. A Syracuse legend who went on to play in the NBA, Dwayne "The Pearl" Washington defeated all odds.
"I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn and I used to see people in the hallways shooting needles, smoking weed doing, I mean, just a lot of things. I said I never want to be like that," said Washington.
Dwayne's dream kept him drug and alcohol free. Now, he's hoping his path will inspire college kids here at MVCC.
"They called me and I said I definitely would be here because I think this is more important than anything," said Washington.
For freshman Jasmine Shirley, his message hit home. She grew up on drug-riddled streets and just like Dwayne, stays clean for her basketball dream. She hopes her peers were paying attention.
"I hope they actually take this into consideration and if they decide they're going to do it at least know what they're getting themselves into, know what they're doing to their body physically, emotionally," said Shirley.
The Syracuse legend delivered a slam dunk speech but can he bring his skills to the court against MVCC's faculty?
"They told me that they're going to let me score as I want to score so that's the good thing," joked Washington, before facing off with the college's employees.
"We're a college, we want to add fun activities. We don't want to just lecture, we want to engage and I think it will be fun for the crowd to see the president face off. Who doesn't want to play their teachers, right? Who doesn't want to see the teachers lose?" said John Nehme, a career counselor at MVCC.
After all the hoops are shot and the fun is done, Washington hopes students go home with this message: "If you can help somebody, get them in a program or do whatever you can do to help this person, it all comes back on you," he said.