• 5 Feb 2016

49ers WRs to captain charity basketball game in Menlo Park

Stephen Ashford, a PE teacher at East Palo Alto Charter School, was hoping San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton could help out at a back-to-school event in the fall. Scheduling conflicts didn't permit it.

A brainstorming session with their manager produced a better option. That's why Ellington and Patton jumped at the opportunity to headline a Super Bowl charity basketball game on Saturday in Menlo Park's Onetta Harris Community Center, located at 100 Terminal Ave.

"It just kind of came together and we made it happen," Ashford said.

Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., with admission $10.

Team Ellington vs. Team Patton will feature a number of current and former NFL players, including 49ers rookie Arik Armstead and running back Kendall Gaskins. Plus, ex-49er Chris Culliver and wide receiver Rashad Ross, his current teammate with the Washington Redskins. Not to mention Tully Banta-Cain, who won a Super Bowl title with the New England Patriots and was born in Mountain View.

"And there will be some surprise guests that will show up," said Ashford, who confirmed Palo Alto High standout BJ Boyd, an outfielder drafted by the Oakland A's, will be in attendance.

The rosters will include police and firefighters serving East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park. But how will the talent be dispersed?

"Old school," Ashford said. "Like when you're in high school, you pick your teams. That's how we're going to do it. We'll flip a coin and then they get to pick who they want on their team."

One player to consider is 6-foot-3 Raymond Townsend, a San Jose native who was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1978 out of UCLA, where he was part of the legendary John Wooden's 10th and last national championship team in 1975.

"I'm looking forward just to rubbing elbows with some ex-pro athletes and some entertainers and having a good time," Townsend said. "Entertain the crowd, make them laugh and hopefully get a chance to speak to some of them."

Live in Peace, a community group based out of East Palo Alto, is a key sponsor and helped procure T-shirts the players will wear, while pCloudy.com, a cloud-based mobile app testing platform, was also integral in its support.

The proceeds will benefit the East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy football team, which Ashford coaches, the EPA Charter School sports program and other schools in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

"We're going to involve everybody," Ashford said.

"Anytime you have the opportunity to raise funds to give children to give children an opportunity to make their lives bigger and better, you oughta be in the forefront," said Townsend, who through camps, tutoring and academic support has serviced over 32,000 children since 1990. "Coach Wooden, when we were playing with him, always felt that all of his players when they're done playing should be serving the community and giving back. That was one of his biggest things."

Will the 60-year-old be able to keep up with the pros?

"I don't want to make any predictions because that's a big court now," said Townsend, with a laugh, who still plays once a week and has trained three players currently in the NBA. "I'm confident in my skills, they're somewhere. They'll show up."

Saturday, he'll find out. And possibly entertain the crowd.