Corey Maggette, #50, drives to the basket during a BIG3 basketball game. Maggette graduated from Fenwick in 1998.(Courtesy Getty Images/BIG3)

In the winter of 1999, Orlando Magic rookie Corey Maggette traveled to Chicago for his debut against his hometown team, the Bulls.

After relocating to Florida from a brief stint at Duke University and previously his Bellwood home, Maggette’s return to the Windy City was met with recognition from NBA stars he only dreamed of playing with or against, including Scottie Pippen and the always flamboyant Charles Barkley.

Maggette, 38, grew up in Bellwood and graduated from Fenwick in 1998.

During his time at Fenwick, Maggette had a decorated basketball career, earning three Parade All-American selections, 1998 McDonald’s All-American recognition and a Most Valuable Player Award at the Wendy’s Classic.

Maggette amassed 2,450 points and more than 1,000 rebounds as a four-year varsity starter for the Friars. He’s regarded as the greatest player in program history and his No. 50 jersey is retired at the school.

Off the court, his development has been substantial as well courtesy of his experience at Fenwick.

“In that process, you see so much love from the school,” Maggette said about Fenwick. “You see so much heart, you see so much accountability, and they push you to try to get to the next level.”

When Maggette wasn’t playing hoops, he joined the Friars’ track and field team. Picking up the sport on the side, Maggette eventually finished as a state finalist in the triple jump and long jump.

“Fenwick really gave me an opportunity for diversity,” Maggette said. “Coming from a predominantly African-American community, Fenwick really opened my eyes. It gave me a chance to intermingle and learn how to co-exist.”

On Friday evening, Maggette returned to the United Center—the very place where he first met his role models—for recording artist/actor Ice Cube’s annual BIG3 tournament. Fans filed in to see the likes of familiar faces, including Maggette, Carlos Boozer, Metta World Peace, Drew Gooden, Brian Scalabrine, Quentin Richardson and Nate Robinson. BIG3 coaches include NBA legends like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, George “Iceman” Gervin and Rick Barry. Fellow celebrities joined Ice Cube such as LL Cool J and actor Michael Rapaport.

“Being a Chicagoan and getting the chance to come really means a lot,” Maggette said. “I mean I remember the days of Michael Jordan playing in this building. To still have the chance to play here at a high level really shows what the BIG3 is trying to do.”

This time, however, the 6-foot-6 Maggette was on the other side of the ball where he scored 16 points pushing team Power to a 50-44 victory over 3’s Company. On Power, Maggette serves as team captain and his teammates include Glen Davis, Cuttino Mobley, Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Richardson.

Finishing off a 14-year, six-team career in the NBA in 2013, this is Maggette’s second consecutive appearance in the BIG3. In last year’s inaugural season, Maggette was good for a stellar performance in the first week, scoring 15 in his league debut. Maggette’s success, however, was cut short after suffering a crushing, season-ending Achilles injury.

After months of rehab, it was questionable whether Maggette would play, let alone produce strong performances on the court.

Maggette says the rehab process took a lot out of the competitive 38-year-old, but that it was made easier by the community of people who supported his recovery.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Maggette said. “I retired because of some injuries, but I had a few good trainers to help me through.”

Such setbacks didn’t seem to phase Maggette on Friday though, as he took charge early, earning 12 points by halftime and giving Power a comfortable lead.

Through his recovery, Maggette’s teammates lauded at his off-the-court precision and good health, attributing it to his speedy recovery.

“Corey takes care of his body so much even when we play,” Mobley said. “He definitiely doesn’t take the game for granted, I mean he teaches me how to take care of my body. He’s definitely a pro’s pro.”

As a player who wears his competitive nature on his sleeve, Maggette appeared locked in throughout the game’s second half, as he took charge when 3’s Company was threating late. In crunch time, a steadfast Maggette flawlessly sped down the court, putting in the game-winning shot.

Eager to remind the home crowd of his talent, Maggette allowed his experience to take over on the court.

Known for his calm and polite demeanor off the court, this is nothing out of the ordinary for the former star who has recently picked up a television gig as an analyst. Following the game, Maggette’s ebullient personality was on full display, laughing with teammates, taking photos with fans and greeting his loved ones at the end of the tunnel.  

Maggete serves as a role model for local high school student athletes who now play on the same court he once did.

Beginning in 2006, Maggette established the “Corey Cares Foundation,” dedicated to giving back to the less fortunate. Additionally, he hosted the Corey Maggette Flight 50 Basketball Camp at Fenwick, where proceeds went to his foundation. Flight 50 went on to receive the award for “NBA Player’s Best Camp.”

Becoming a highly regarded NBA player just years out of high school, Maggette received star treatment. While players often lose touch with their communities for a variety of reasons, Maggette keeps coming back to the community that supported a kid who dreamed big.

“I could have made a ton of decisions, not to go to Fenwick, but this was the road,” Maggette said. “The road to Fenwick was able to get me to the NBA, to a successful career and most of all to my family.”

“It’s been such a blessing,” Maggette said. “I really tip my hat to Fenwick.”

Perhaps Maggette’s most symbolic tribute to his formative Friar days appears on his back. Since his time at Fenwick, Maggette has worn the jerseys of six different NBA teams, but each of those bearing the number 50 on his jersey, serving as a sentimental reminder of home.

Some players wear their hearts on their sleeves. Corey Maggette wears it on the number on his back.  

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