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Dr. Dunkenstein brings athletics to private boarding school for at-risk boys

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This is an artist's rendering of the Darrell Griffith Athletic Center. This is an artist's rendering of the Darrell Griffith Athletic Center.
Darrell Griffith (Source: WAVE 3 News) Darrell Griffith (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Griffith led the Cardinals to their first NCAA men's basketball championship in 1980. Griffith led the Cardinals to their first NCAA men's basketball championship in 1980.
The athletic center currently is under construction. (Source: WAVE 3 News) The athletic center currently is under construction. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
West End School is a private boarding school for at-risk boys. (Source: WAVE 3 News) West End School is a private boarding school for at-risk boys. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - West End School started with three boys and two dedicated educators in a home in West Louisville. Now, West End School not only is growing strong, responsible young men, it is helping to build a more vibrant community.

The world knows Darrell Griffith as Dr. Dunkenstein, the shooting guard for the University of Louisville's first-ever NCAA championship team in 1980 and as a player for the Utah Jazz for more than 11 years. But Griffith got his start at the old Virginia Avenue School, which changed its name to Jessie Rodman Carter Elementary in the late 1970s. Jessie Rodman Carter relocated, leaving the building empty for years until it found new life as West End School.

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“We got something serious going on here, and we plan on being here for a while," said Griffith. "We plan on changing kids lives."

The West End School is doing things its skeptics declared would never happen. It can now boast 18 graduates who have received millions of dollars in scholarships to Louisville's best high schools and the world's best colleges. The boarding school now includes a day school for boys pre-K through 5th grade. The latest addition to the school is the Darrell Griffith Athletic Center.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Kentuckiana school teaches boys more than the basic skills]

“It means so much to have something that's going to be everlasting in the neighborhood you grew up in, and more importantly, to help the kids that go to this school,” said Griffith. “You know, the kids don't have a gym. You can't have a school without a gym.”

The school does have a basketball team that traveled to 37 away games last year. Although the players had no gym, they never gave up, even when just finding a way to practice wasn't easy.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Couple helps realize potential at West End School]

“The community is behind it and they don't even know it," said Griffith. "They inspired me as a young man to be the best I could be and they're inspiring what we are doing here.”

The school has big dreams to fit the needs of the little dreamers inside. Griffith understands those dreams.

“I use to ball up my socks and I used to shoot them at lamp shades all over the house to pretend I was shooting jump shots," Griffith remembered. "I guess my mom got tired of it and told my dad we needed to put a basketball goal up. He ended up putting a goal up on the back of our garage, so that's how my basketball got up on 41st and Hale,” Griffith laughed.

With the help of volunteers, donations and the community, Griffith has a different kind of slam dunk this time: a $2.2 million gym for school recreation and team sports, featuring indoor-outdoor speakers, a concession stand, training center and more opportunities than the scoreboard can count.

“A lot of people give up on this community, and we want to change that," Griffith stressed. "It's a great community. I grew up just a few blocks down the street from here, and there's a lot of great people in this community.”

Near the entrance of the Athletic Center on Dumesnil Street, a Darrell Griffith Gallery will include photos, memorabilia and Griffith's actual basketball hoop from his home.

To support the West End School, simply text the letters WES to 80888 and a one-time donation of $10 will be automatically added to your cell phone bill.

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