Tech's Charles Newton bridging basketball and belief abroad
May 03, 2010
Member of the Golden Eagle men's basketball
By Kate Nicewicz
TTU Sports Information Assistant
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- How do you begin a story about a
student-athlete traveling to East Asia to play competitive
collegiate basketball and partake in a cross-continental, religious
The difficulty of the question is a testament to the
unconventional and personally unique nature of Charles
Newton’s plans for the next few weeks, and the story behind
Just following the end of the 2010 spring semester at Tennessee
Tech University, Newton – known affectionately by most as
“Newt” – will participate in a Reach USA program
through Sports Reach, a Christian ministry that bridges the gap
between basketball and belief. The ministry, founded in 1986
by Robby Spear and Larry Pursiful, uses the sports world as an
avenue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with vast network of
practicing and non-practicing Christians of all cultures.
Reach USA is open to young, Christian men “who are playing
college basketball [and] want to use their talents in basketball to
share the Good News of Jesus Christ.” Athletes from
colleges and universities throughout Kentucky and surrounding
states will come together for a ten-day trip structured around the
paradigm of melding competitive basketball with cultural exchange
and the glorification of God and one’s beliefs in a new
country. Since its inception, Reach USA has visited 16
different countries on five continents.
This year’s venue is China, and Newt will join a new team
of college basketball players whom he has never met before for the
experience of a lifetime overseas. Under the coaching eye of
former Kentucky all-American and NBA player Kyle Macy, the team
will play six to seven games against other university and B pro
Born and raised in downtown Lexington, Ky., Newt and his talents
on the court are well known throughout his hometown where, he says,
“if you don’t like basketball or horses, you gotta get
Naturally, Newton would be recognized in Lexington where, as a
senior, team captain and team MVP at Lexington Catholic High
School, he lead his team in steals and assists and fueled the way
to a district championship and the regional semi-finals. He
was also named district tournament MVP and honored as a member of
the regional tournament first-team.
Following a stellar high school career Newton, who red-shirted
with the Golden Eagles in the 2008-2009 season, played pickup ball
at the University of Kentucky, which is where Robby Spear first
recognized his talent on the court and potential to play a vital
role in future Reach USA endeavors.
Knowing something of Newt’s personality spiritually, Spear
approached Newton’s father with the prospect of Charles
traveling with Reach USA. The opportunity to play competitive
basketball overseas while exploring enlightenment and developing
spiritually was, in the eyes of the Newton’s, one that was
too great to pass up.
In fact, the chance to play ball in a new capacity and context
may have been more of a “no-brainer” than an actual
opportunity to “consider.”
“I’m a Newton, it’s in our blood, that’s
what we do,” said Newt markedly, who had a basketball in his
hands when he was barely able to crawl. “Daddy Newt
made sure of that,” he laughed.
While basketball has been a part of Newt’s life for as
long as he can remember, he’s just recently become more
avidly active spiritually.
“A few months ago, I had certain situations in my life
where I didn’t act the way I should have,” admitted
Newton. “[At that point] I just noticed [that] my life
wasn’t really going well.”
However, positive influences from his family and closest friends
urged Newt in a different direction. “My family came
together at the perfect time,” said Newt, who also credits
much of his spiritual inspiration to Tech teammate Riley Hunley.
Newt’s family members are undoubtedly his biggest fans,
especially as he is preparing to embark on his trip to Asia.
“Daddy Newt, my sister, my mother, my little brother,
Elijah Muhammad, Riley Hunley, JP Blevins, Jim Mayhen, Mr.
Barnette,” Newt ticks off thoughtfully, when asked of his
biggest supporters. And when questioned about what their
support means to him on a daily basis, he answered without a
split-second of hesitation.
“Everything. Some of them aren’t my blood
family, but they’re my family. They mean the world to
Newt has a few simple expectations for his journey to China, the
first being, most obviously, to move through different stages of
spiritual development. “To grow as an individual, faith
wise, and to spread the word,” he emphasizes.
“Also, to have fun and play basketball,” he adds as an
The most rewarding part of the trip, he believes, will come in
the form of being active in the community. “Making
bonds and meeting new people” is something that Newt is
definitely looking forward to. While he won’t meet his
new teammates in person until the trip commences, Newt’s
proactive personality as a natural leader has led him to reach out
to several of them already to try to build a cohesive unit early.
Newton already knows that he’ll stay active in Reach USA
after his trip this May. While he is only a sophomore on the
court at Tech and a junior in the classroom, credit-wise he is
considered a senior. He plans to spend the remainder of his
summer in Lexington, taking summer classes in effort to graduate
early. Post-graduation, he will continue to pursue his dream
of coaching and giving back to the basketball community that has
offered him so much throughout his life.
“My role will change from player to coach, but I want to
give back,” he says fervently. And, with his drive,
determination, positive attitude, and unwavering support from those
around him, it is likely that Newt will encounter little that will
get in the way of his goals.