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February 3, 2010 > Final "O-Zone Nights" this weekend

Final "O-Zone Nights" this weekend

By Biff Jones

Second and last of the "O-Zone Nights" will be held on Saturday, Feb. 6, in McKeon Pavilion on the campus of St. Mary's College (SMC) Gaels in Moraga. Opponent will be West Coast Conference (WCC) rival University of San Francisco (USF) Dons and will be televised by Comcast Sports Net California.

So far this season, the Gaels are 19-3 overall; 6-1 and tied for first in WCC play going into the Thursday, Feb. 4, home encounter with league rival Santa Clara University at 8:30 p.m.

Last year, the Gaels made it to the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) before being eliminated by San Diego State. This year, SMC hopes to make it to the "Big Dance" during March Madness in the NCAA Tournament.

"O-Zone Nights" this year and "Diamon Center Nights" (named after Diamon Simpson, a senior on last year's SMC club) last year, are the idea of Hayward Youth Academy (HYA) President and Founder Chris Major. Major's idea is to inspire and educate elementary-aged youths (fourth, fifth and sixth graders) in the value of staying in school and keeping up their grades while in junior high and high school. This will enable them to go on to college so they can achieve their goals in life. HYA is open to youths aged 9-15.

O-Zone is the name of a section in the stands at McKeon Pavilion that has been set aside for attending youths and is named after Omar Samhan, a 6'11" senior center on this year's SMC men's basketball team. In 2008-2009, Samhan led the team in blocked shots with 69 and was a First-Team, All-WCC selection.

Samhan has talked to students at Bowman elementary in Hayward about the advantages of keeping their grades up. Bowman Principal Maria Rivera and her teachers are in charge of getting their students on the right track and welcome the support of Major, Samhan and others such as SMC President Brother Ron Gallagher.

For those who want to become a sponsor for these Bay Area youth, they will receive two complimentary tickets to the game; one public address announcement acknowledging their contribution to the O-Zone Night; their name and logo on a banner in the lobby of McKeon Pavilion for the night; recognition at half court during a timeout of the game; and pre-game photo opportunities with the group to which their tickets are donated. Sponsor financial investment is $700.

For more information on joining HYA or becoming a sponsor, you can contact Chris Major by calling 510-677-5653 or e-mailing info@haywardyouthacademy.org. HYA is a 501c [3] nonprofit corporation.

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