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clarence staley

Clarence Staley – Growing Up in North Philadelphia

As a north Philly native, clarence staley knows what it’s like to grew up on the fringes of the city. The sprawling Raymond Rosen projects, a rec center at 25th and Diamond and the Liacouras Center all played their part in her development.

But her focus wasn’t always on the ball. During a scuffle with Stanford in Los Angeles, Staley hopped off the court and ran to add time on the clock for her team to get one last shot.


Clarence Staley and his wife Estelle were among the millions of black Americans who fled segregationist laws in South Carolina to seek a better life in North Philadelphia. Their first home in the city was a three-bedroom, one-bath row house in the Raymond Rosen housing projects.

The family moved to Dobbins Tech High School in Philadelphia, where Staley became a star basketball player. She earned two ACC Player of the Year awards and three All-American honors in her college career.

Staley is the founder of the Dawn Staley Foundation, which helps mentor inner-city girls by focusing on academics and athletics. She also is an outspoken advocate for gender equity and social justice.

Early Years

Clarence Staley and his wife Estelle were originally from Orangeburg, South Carolina but moved to Philadelphia when they got married. They lived in a three-bedroom row house in the Raymond Rosen housing projects in North Philadelphia.

They had four children, Lawrence, Anthony, Eric and Tracey. They all started to play basketball as a way to escape their rough lives and eventually earned their high school diplomas.

Their parents had a strong sense of discipline that helped them build their character and work ethic. They also gave their children a strong sense of family and community.

In the midst of their life in North Philly, they were faced with many struggles such as Leukemia and the death of one of their brothers, Anthony. But they never gave up.

College Years

At Virginia, Staley made two trips to the Final Four and was a two-time ACC player of the year. She was a three-time All-American and set the school’s all-time scoring record.

Then she married and moved to Philadelphia, where she earned a spot in the city’s Hall of Fame. She created the Dawn Staley Foundation, which offers girls from inner-city neighborhoods mentoring and leadership training.

In north Philadelphia, where crime and graft were the norm, basketball offered an escape from the blight. Her parents, Clarence and Estelle, instilled discipline and an aspiration for a better life in their daughters.

Professional Years

During her professional basketball career, clarence staley played for several teams overseas. She also played for the USA national team and won three Olympic gold medals.

In her life as a basketball player, clarence staley grew in both attitude and skill. She was a strong player and was always a good teammate.

She was named the national high school player of the year during her senior season at Murrell Dobbins Tech High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She went on to play college basketball at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Then she came back home to Philadelphia and started her coaching career at Temple. During her eight years at Temple, she led the women’s basketball team to six NCAA tournaments.

Olympic Years

The Olympic years of clarence staley’s life may have been the most difficult. She had a family to worry about, an undiagnosed heart condition that kept her off the floor and a team to coach.

Those moments in her Philadelphia neighborhood were hard, but they also shaped the person she is today: willful, determined and focused on her singular goal of winning. The winding streets and ostentatious blocks of north Philly hardened her, making her unwilling to accept a droplet of failure or an ounce of idleness.

She grew up in a community with mothers who looked after their children, who did not let crime encroach on their little island of peace and safety. She knew what it was like to live in fear of crime, but her parents would lash out if she ever got involved with it.

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