Zachary Andrews played basketball and football at Cordova High School through 2003. He went on to play basketball for Yuba College, Bradley University, and now professionally in Europe. Zach’s accomplishments on the court are impressive indeed, and even more illustrious when considering what he had to overcome. Mr. Andrews had a difficult childhood and knew firsthand the turmoil of the foster care system and also what it was like to be a homeless “couch surfer” during his teen years. Zach had a very challenging upbringing, but he is not a statistic ending in despair and hopelessness. He made it.
The following interview took place in September 2009 over email between Ryan Lundquist of Project 680 and Mr. Zachary Andrews.
RL: Where did you grow up, and when did you come to Rancho Cordova?
Zach: I was born in Oakland and the way I ended up in Rancho Cordova was I was sent to a foster home.
RL: What year did you graduate Cordova High School?
Zach: I graduated Cordova High in 2003.
RL: When did you start playing basketball, and did you ever imagine you’d be playing professionally?
Zach: Believe it or not, I actually started playing basketball late, which was 7th grade. I was a troubled child growing up with no one who cared about me, so I didn’t care too much about myself. I didn’t feel wanted in any way. I didn’t feel nor did I know what love was. So finally something caught my eye which led me to my path to do well. I never imagined I’d be playing professionally. It is a real blessing to travel the world and earn a living.
RL: What was your living situation like during High School?
Zach: My living situation during High School was tough. I was going back and forth from my home to friends’ houses, and eventually it was just going to friends’ houses. I shared clothes with my friends – everything except shoes, but shared underwear, shorts, jeans, just so I could fit in at school. It was very tough for me because I had siblings I wanted to take care of, but could not because I could not take care of myself. The friends I lived with I consider my family very highly because they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
RL: What was it like to be “couch surfing” as a teenager? How did that impact you?
Zach: It was hard for me to come out and tell people I was going home. The only people that really knew were my friends and the football coaches. The coaches [knew] because I could not afford to pay for cleats or jerseys. So that was very hard because I did not want to share that with them. I was scared I would have to move.
RL: What encouraged you to an athletic career? Was there a particular person or experience?
Zach: I never was encouraged to pursue an athletic career because I felt I wasn’t good enough. I honestly didn’t plan to go to college until a junior college coach, the only coach that saw my potential, asked me to come play for him. This was shocking to me because I was not advertised at all like that, so there was something that would not let me give up when I wanted to, which got me a scholarship to Bradley University.
RL: What was it like to help lead your college team at Bradley University to the Sweet 16?
Zach: It was like an unbelievable dream that you could not wake up from. And to be a part of that Sweet 16 experience – I don’t think any other words can describe what it felt like to lead a team to the Sweet 16 that had not been in years. And the guys that I shared it with made it worth the training and dedication.
RL: How would you like to apply your B.A. degree in Theatre Arts?
Zach: I would love to apply my B.A. degree in Theatre Arts by doing movies on the big screen with huge actors one day. But until then I’m going to see how far I can go with playing basketball. But movies is my next goal I plan to accomplish.
RL: So many kids in similar situations don’t make it. What made you different? How were you able to overcome some of the challenges you faced?
Zach: I believe it is the people you choose to surround yourself with that allow you to choose your path and overcome challenges, when it comes to being a statistic in the environment we are given in similar situations as mine.
RL: Is it true that you can do back flips?
Zach: LOL. Yes, it is true I can do back flips.
RL NOTE: Zach is 6’8″ by the way.
RL: What types of things did the office of the District Liaison for Homeless Services do for you during High School?
Zach: They cater to all of us in any way they can. I was in need of a new book bag (which I still have I believe), and could not afford a yearbook every year, among other school materials. And if I just wanted to talk, her and her staff would make the day even better by spending time with us even it if was for a minute or two.
RL: How has your background shaped you?
Zach: My background shaped me to appreciate myself and others more. And understand that the world is not always after you – it only prepares you. So in my words it is not about what you were, it is about what you’re going to become if you believe and don’t give up. There is always going to be someone that loves and cares about you no matter what your situation is or how you were raised.
RL: What advice would you offer to homeless kids?
Zach: My advice I would offer homeless children would be to stay strong through the roughest and toughest times. There will be times when you want to give up, and that time is the worst because everything negative seems to come out of nowhere and sit on your shoulders, which will leave you feeling like you have no one. And that’s when it counts the most to be the strongest and believe in yourself if nobody will.
RL: Why do you think some homeless kids lose hope?
Zach: It’s simple, we “homeless children” lose hope because the love and motivation we want is not given, but all the stress of thinking everything will be okay when it is not is [given]. Also, the motivation and love we have for ourselves is not enough and we search for it at close friends’ homes, school, and anywhere we can to feel wanted – to escape our living situation.
RL: In our efforts to reach out to local students who might be in a similar situation you were in, what advice do you have for us?
Zach: Advice I have for you when it comes to your efforts to reach out to us is stay consistent, understanding, and concerned because it shows us that you truly care about us and our needs as a person. And doing so allows it to be easier to open up to you and how we feel – especially if they’re females.
RL: Where do you think you’d be right now if you didn’t have a supportive coach, teachers, loving siblings and friends (and their families) to help you out during High School?
Zach: If I did not have them believing in me, there is a possibility I would have had children at an early age, dropped out of High School. Selling drugs to get money to raise money for my child. Maybe in and out of jail.
RL: Where do you see yourself doing in the next ten years?
Zach: In the next ten years I see myself married with a gorgeous wife and child, financially stable, in the NBA, and pursuing my movie role in a summer blockbuster film.
We know Mr. Andrews is very busy playing basketball in Europe, and we appreciate the time he gave for an interview with Project 680, as well as his openness. What did you think? Does anything he said stand out to you? Comments are welcome.
photo credit: Bradley University Website
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