The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 21, 2013

Gouard to speak at Dustbowl camp


DANVILLE — The Gouard family name has become synonymous with basketball in the Danville area, and it would be hard to imagine not having at least one member heavily involved in spreading positive vibes throughout the basketball community.

By the time DaJuan Gouard graduated from Danville High School in 2001, he had created a name for himself on the court as an all-stater, and went on to post impressive numbers as a member of the Loyola University Ramblers men’s basketball team.

He eventually played professionally in Europe, and most recently spent the last three years on the sidelines as an assistant coach at Danville Area Community College .

Earlier this summer, Gouard stepped into a new role when he was named head coach of the DACC men’s basketball team.

But even now as a head coach, Gouard realizes that his greatest impact in the basketball community might be away from the court.

He has been speaking to kids and families for years, and will have another opportunity to share his success story this week at the Dustbowl Youth Leadership Camp.

“It means a lot,” Gouard said of the opportunity. “With this being my hometown, you try to make it a point to all kids to let them know that anything is possible. Working with the middle school group makes it ironic for me because I feel that’s when I really started to make life changes and started thinking about the future.

“I think it’s pivotal to talk to them and let them know that whatever it is, if they want to do it, it’s possible.”

The decision to have Gouard speak at the youth camp was easy for tournament co-founder and organizer Dwight Lucas, who watched Gouard grow up.

Having the title of DACC men’s basketball coach will certainly hold weight with impressionable student-athletes attending the camp, but Lucas said it goes much deeper than that. Lucas specifically noticed Gouard’s demeanor and professionalism as he worked his way through middle school, high school, college, and eventually at the professional level.

“This is a young man I have seen grow up in the community,” Lucas said. “I saw that he was disciplined, was patient in his journey to fulfill something that he wanted to do — possibly play in some of the pro leagues — and then certainly some day become a coach. He’s been able to meet some of those challenges.

“I think his story, he can best tell. He’s been able to accomplish something, and he’s been able to do it in his hometown. I would hope that would be an inspiration to all the other student-athletes coming up in this area and to see that he weathered the storm, and he achieved something he wanted to do.”

Gouard got his first taste of the Dustbowl at that very age, and has been involved either as a player or mentor for the last 18 years.

Though he claims to be retired from competing — old age being the primary reason — he wants to remain involved in serving as a mentor or inspiration to the area’s youth, helping them stay on the right path so that they, too, can one day see their dreams come true.

“I’m just hoping I can be a voice for some of these kids that are either not thinking about it, or doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” Gouard said. “I want to help them see what they need to be doing.”