Italy grad helps coach basketball camp in Bahamas for disadvantaged youth

Image: Megann Mae Lewis Harlow, a 2007 graduate of Italy High School, autographs a donated basketball giving to a young camper during the 13th Annual Basketball Smiles Camp held in Nassau, Bahamas for disadvantaged youth.

Megann Mae Lewis Harlow, a 2007 graduate of Italy High School, autographs a donated basketball giving to a young camper during the 13th Annual Basketball Smiles Camp held in Nassau, Bahamas for disadvantaged youth. (Submitted photo)

A 2007 multi-sport valedictorian of Italy High School and a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Hardin-Simmons University where she led the Cowgirls as a softball pitcher and will achieve her Master’s degree in December, Megann Mae Lewis Harlow, never expected to be shooting hoops in the Bahamas while interning for, Sam Nichols, a Chief Weather forecaster for KTAB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Abilene, Texas. Once at KTAB-TV, Megann received an invitation from Nichols to help coach a basketball camp for disadvantaged youth in Nassau, Bahamas.

Nichols, became good friends with Megann and her husband, Andrew Harlow, who is currently working towards a coaching degree from Hardin-Simmons, and requested the newly weds join his coaching staff during his 13th Annual Basketball Smiles week-long camp held in Nassau.

Basketball Smiles was birthed in the spring of 1999 when Coach Sam Nichols from McMurry University and Coach Patty Johnson from the Commonwealth of the Bahamas met in San Jose California at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Convention. A mutual love for basketball and children between these two coaches led to the first Basketball Smiles basketball camps in June 1999. After that first year, Coach Nichols developed the motto of Basketball Smiles:

“We can bring a week of smiles and hope through basketball.”

In May 2007, Coach Nichols retired from 32 years coaching women’s basketball. The last 12 years were spent as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at McMurry University. He retired from McMurry as the all-time winningest Women’s Basketball Coach in McMurry University history. Under Nichols’ leadership, McMurry Women’s Basketball teams reached several milestones:

  • Four NCAA Post-season appearances, including making the “Sweet 16” in 2000
  • 2006 American Southwest Conference Champions
  • Developed Four All-Americans
  • Set over 33 school records
  • 100% Graduation among his players in 12 yrs. at McMurry
  • In 2006, Nichols was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association 600 Victory Club, and
  • Has a 70% career winning percentage during his 32 years

From 2005-2007, Nichols served on the WBCA Board of Directors as Chairman of the Male Coaches of Women’s Basketball.

He is Founder and President of Basketball Smiles, a program of free basketball camps in the inner city playgrounds of the Bahamas.

A veteran clinician, Nichols is still much in demand, and speaks at basketball clinics and camps around the United States, and still loves to teach the game of basketball. He has conducted clinics in Russia and Africa, along with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

Since being a Chief Weather Forecaster for KTAB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Abilene Texas, Nichols was awarded the “Bell” Award for outstanding media coverage of issues in education by the Texas Retired Teachers’ Association. In 2010, Nichols was voted the “Favorite TV Weather Person” in the Abilene Reporter News Reader’s Choice Awards.

Megann entered the adventure with prior experience as a mentor during youth sport camps. She has been an assistant basketball summer camp coach at Italy High School and has conducted her own softball pitching camps between college semesters, as well as, volunteer coach for Hardin-Simmons summer softball camps. Always a top student in her studies, Megann has been a perfect fit for Basketball Smiles that promotes winning in both sports and academics.  

“We aim to teach life skills as well as basketball skills during the camp,” said Megann. “Our motto this year was self respect. We want to reach these kids in as many positive ways as possible. Having team talks at the end of every day to try to inspire these kids to break away from the mold is one of the ways we do that.” While putting on the free camp, the coaches also hand out camp shirts, shorts, socks, and basketballs to every camper. “The kids really enjoy that part and we get to provide a few more smiles,” Megann added. 

Megann, along with Coach Nichols, is collecting gently used sneakers to be donated to the camp next summer. "The camp participants needing shoes are 5th graders, age 11 and under. A donated pair of shoes that a child has simply outgrown would make a huge difference to these kids. “Most have never owned a basketball until they arrived at camp and some campers show up and play in socks because they lack appropriate footwear,” explained Megann who is excited about being a part of Basketball Smiles.

You can contact Megann at [email protected] to donate a pair of tennis shoes for campers in youth sizes. 

Contact Basketball Smiles:

Email:If you have any questions, would like to donate to Basketball Smiles or if you would like more information about Basketball Smiles then please feel free to contact Sam Nichols via email: [email protected]

Basketball Smiles
3917 Aviator Drive
Abilene, TX  79606

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