Students at St. Gabriel School, 5503 Bardstown Road, received a special visit April 18 from Peyton Siva, one of the stars of the University of Louisville’s national championship men’s basketball team, and Roger Burkman, a member of the 1980 national championship U of L basketball team.
The entire student body — about 750 kids — packed into the school’s gymnasium to listen to the U of L senior recount the team’s remarkable season and the motivators in his life.
Siva told the students to always give their best effort.
“You have to push yourself. No matter how tired you are give 100 percent effort in whatever you do in life,” he said.
When asked where his inspiration comes from, Siva responded with two words — “My mother.”
“My mother is the biggest inspiration in my life. … I give her the utmost respect,” he said.
Siva also encouraged the students to keep God close.
“Without him, we are nothing. We really can do all things through Christ.”
He added, “God has a plan for you and it’s bigger than you know.”
In an interview before the assembly, Siva said it was important for him to visit schools and connect with students.
“They see us out there playing basketball and think that’s all we do. I want to talk about the importance of school,” he said.
Siva, who was the recipient of the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the 2013 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, an award which recognizes an athlete’s academic achievements, told the students to work hard in school and listen to their teachers.
“They’ve been in your position before. … They won’t steer you guys wrong,” he said.
Lizzie Neutz, an eighth-grader at the school, said she was impressed that Siva spoke about the importance of education and was inspired by his determination.
“When the team was down, he never gave up. He always tried to win the game,” she said.
Drew Spurlock, also an eighth-grader, said it was easy to relate with Siva because he seemed like a “cool guy.”
Spurlock said Siva’s talk was motivating and encouraged him to “never stop trying.”
Pam Huelsman, principal of St. Gabriel School, said Siva’s visit was such a positive experience for her students.
“The fact that he praises God and does it publicly, he’s such a good role model for the students.He’s a superstar to them and to see him praising God is fantastic,” Huelsman said.
Burkman, athletic director of Spalding University, remarked on Siva’s leadership qualities.
“I’ve seen his maturation from his freshman year to his senior year and what a leader, a positive leader, he has become,” Burkman said. “He was always one to pat players on their backs, help them up from the floor and give encouraging words.”
Burkman said he believes one reason Siva is such a positive role model is because of his faith in God.
“The reason he wears the number three (on his jersey) is because it represents the Trinity. That to me is pretty awesome,” Burkman said.
Following his address, Siva autographed posters and basketballs and gave high fives and hugs to students.