Education News

Mutombo Visits Houston Middle School

The season may be over for the Houston Rockets center, Dikembe Mutombo, but he’s trying to make the future a little brighter for local school children. Mutombo visits a local middle school to talk to kids about the importance physical activity and early screening for heart problems. Bill Stamps was there and tells us how the students reacted to the Rockets superstar.

“Did you enjoy Clutch?”

(kids cheering)
“Did you really enjoy him?”

Students at Houston’s Key Middle school appeared to be alert and excited about having the Rockets’ Dikembe Mutombo and team mascot clutch at their school — which means they probably didn’t get to stay up and see the end of Wednesday night’s playoff game with the Lakers that went past midnight. Mutombo was there to talk to the students about a program called HEARTS that screens kids early for heart problems.

“NBA is not easy to enter. You have to go through much tests, not just screening for your heart, screening for your blood, your brain your legs — everything. They have to make sure you are properly fit to play.”

HEARTS is put on by Memorial Herman and the University of Texas Medical Medical School. Their goal is to screen more than a thousand sixth grade students. And just in case listening to one of the NBA heroes didn’t convince the students…they also heard from people a little closer to their age. Kids who have been diagnosed with heart problems, starting with thirteen year old Hannah Padilla.

“The heart screening is such an important thing to do, because a lot of you are very active and there’s no symptoms at all. You’ll feel just fine and then it can just happen at any moment.”

Will Esperarza was a high school athlete when his sports career ended one day.

“Throughout my whole life, I played football. I did kickboxing, MMA — you know the UFC type of stuff — all those intense things. And I never had any problems with my heart — never getting tired, never throwing up anything like that — so when I fainted and collapsed, it was a very big shock to me, because I never had anything like this happen to me in my life. And I went to the cardiologist and they told me I couldn’t play anymore sports for the rest of my life and that was a big big let down for me, because I had a promising future in sports.”

Doctors and coordinators of the program tried to show the kids how simple the testing is by hooking up team mascot Clutch to an EKG machine that supposedly read his heart. Mutombo told the kids they need to be more active and not just sit around all the time. He told them to play in the NBA, even the players have to be tested to show they’re fit and tough enough to play. And anyone who saw Wednesday’s game knows exactly what he means.

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

For more information about HEART, visit the following link:

Reporters Notes…

Also, I’m working on a few feature stories about Craiglist and Senior Proms and how things have changes since we were in school. If you know anyone I can interview who uses craigslist or has a son or daughter getting ready for the prom. Email me at

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