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My Town Hero: Basketball coach becomes father figure to athletes | My Town Hero

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My Town Hero: Basketball coach becomes father figure to athletes
My Town Hero: Basketball coach becomes father figure to athletes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Tonight's My Town Hero is a legendary Little Rock basketball coach. He's accomplished some remarkable things on the court over the years, but it's what the Arkansas Sports Hall of Famer is doing off the court that makes him so worthy of being called a Town Hero.

This man needs no introduction. Just take a look at the plaques along his wall, and you'll know right away you're in the presence of greatness. Charles Ripley, Head Basketball Coach and Athletic Director at Arkansas Baptist College, wears many hats, but the most significant pertains to meeting the needs of his young athletes.

"These are youngsters that people said couldn't make it, so we did everything we could to help them," said Ripley, but his help stretches far beyond this basketball court. Just ask assistant coach Ronald Tally; he's seen his mentor do it all.

"Taking care of their health, if they need something he'll run them to Walmart. If their money is low he'll take them and go feed them," said Tally.

And, he'll even put a roof over their heads. Two years ago, Donovan Shaw lost his mother one day before his last game of the season. Shaw said he had nowhere to turn.

"Coach offered me his home just till I got everything situated and on my feet," said Shaw.

Donovan would join four other former players at Ripley's home whose dream of basketball at the two-year junior college had ended.

"It was a choice of them getting back out and not fulfilling their dreams of getting a college education because they couldn't afford it otherwise unless they had a place to live," said Ripley, who wanted to make sure they all stayed in school.

"He got me through school, made sure everything was alright, kind of like a father figure, so he was a blessing," said Donovan. Three of his former players who lived with him, have since gone on to four-year colleges. Donovan and another former player are still working toward their goals. "I had a son, but I got a job, so I was just taking care of him, but coach told me it's not hard to do both. He encouraged me to come back and get my masters.”

Ripley's positive influence has been spread among hundreds of athletes, including former NBA player Derek Fisher, who's now the head coach for the New York Knicks and former NFL star Keith Jackson who started the organization P.A.R.K to help lead teens to college opportunities.

Failure is simply not an option for this coach. It's why he pours so much of his own money right back into the college and basketball program.

"I pay my basic bills, and the rest of my life goes to these youngsters at Arkansas Baptist," explained Ripley.

Ripley's selfless acts have not gone unnoticed. In 2008, $2.5 million was donated to the college to build this residence hall, which was named after him. Although he's never had children of his own, it hasn't stopped him from being a loving and caring father-figure to so many young athletes like Donovan.

"He's way more than a coach. Besides family he the next best thing in my life. I don't know what I'd do without him,” Donovan concluded.


Do you know someone in your community who goes above and beyond? Maybe they’re always helping people, or greets everyone with a smile. Perhaps they’ve beat unthinkable odds or have accomplished something exceptional.

We want to highlight them. To have your My Town Hero featured, email the following information to mytown@thv11.com:

  • Their name,
  • Their hometown,
  • Their contact information,
  • A photo of them, and
  • What makes them extra special

Include “My Town Hero” in the email subject line and we’ll take care of publishing it for you. Their story might even be told on air by THV11's Denise Middleton.