By: Cody Elliott, Staff Writer
Growing up in Atlanta, Ga. — a place many consider the “mecca” when it comes to the game of basketball — Ralph Sampson III has seen it all throughout his playing career.
Notably, his father, Ralph Sampson II, is a former Harrisonburg High standout that went on to get drafted No. 1 in the NBA Draft and is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
But the younger Sampson has quite the resume himself and he now brings that to Horizons Edge as the facility’s Sports Program Manager in different ways throughout the year.
“I create impactful and engaging programs for youth to not only be introduced to sports but also develop current skills to their highest potential,” Sampson said. “However, I like to say that I create avenues for passions to be explored through sports.”
During his high school playing days, Sampson won numerous state titles and achieved individual accolades that stacked up with some of the best players in the country before earning a full scholarship to continue his playing career at the University of Minnesota.
While there, he became the third player in program history to amass 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 200 blocks but suffered an injury during his senior that forced him to miss the NBA Draft pre-draft workouts and ultimately led him to playing professionally overseas.
“However, I have now pivoted my passion into investing into the future generations of athletes fully equipped with lessons from my friends’, teammates’, and my own experiences to help show athletes how to manifest their dreams into reality,” Sampson said.
While overseas, he remembered a specific time where he was asked to hold a quick clinic at a local school and the experience ultimately brought back a lot of memories for Sampson.
He said he recalled helping his father help with camps as a youngster and the passion he had for working with young athletes ultimately started growing right as COVID struck.
Ultimately, as the sports world slowed down temporarily, Sampson started looking into other career avenues and that’s when the full-circle opportunity at Horizons Edge came to life.
“I understood pro athletes do not have time to really invest in the future generations and I wanted to create a lasting impact and be that support and resource for those families,” Sampdon said. “So I started a business doing exactly that but then COVID came and shut everything down. I was made aware of Horizons Edge and decided to make the move to come, to reignite that drive to help younger athletes. With the passing of my grandad, my passion to leave an impactful legacy for future generations is stronger than ever.”
Ralph Sampson, the father of Ralph Sampson II and the grandfather of Ralph Sampson III, passed away in late October at the age of 86 and it impacted many around the community.
For Sampson III specifically, it provided more motivation to turn his dream to a reality.
“My love for the city of Harrisonburg runs deep,” Sampson said. “My family has been here for generations. When I was younger, I used to spend summers coming to visit my grandparents and aunts. They were invested and big in the community and they used to take us all around. I could not count how many times I ran into people who remember me as a kid or remember me playing and it has been nothing but warm feelings. Harrisonburg has always been a home of mine. I really saw the heart of the city when my grandfather passed and the amount of people that came out and showed their support for my family.”
Growing up in the Sampson family, there certainly could have been pressure on his shoulders. But Sampson III credited his parents for never “being into the glitz and glam of life” and instead, said he was a kid who had to work for everything he has earned thus far.
“As a result, I feel that helped prepare me for the grind that comes with growth and elevation,” Sampson said. “My dad used to tell me pressure doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from within. I took this to heart and created my personal standard that I live up to. Every outcome that came to be was a direct result of the expectations I put on myself.”
With his grandfather’s and father’s legacies already cemented, Sampson III wants to do the same and said he aims to make that happen through his work with Horizons Edge.
The game of basketball has provided Sampson and his family much throughout life.
Now, Sampson wants to return the favor in a way to the city of Harrisonburg and around.
I aim to grow my community in Harrisonburg and build a legacy that my grandfather could be proud of,” Sampson said. “I want to introduce kids to sports and help guide them through the lessons I know sports will teach. I will bring a new level of preparation for the elite athletes as well as introduce fun and skills to the youth.”