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“It was magical:” MPS student-athletes get the chance to play under the bright lights at UWM Panther Arena

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- High school sports are about more than just games on Friday nights. The are about experiences and using those experiences for growth. Recently, Milwaukee Public Schools officials were hoping to give that opportunity to a number of its students.

"It was magical. Something new. I've never experienced something like this before," South Division High School senior Zephaniah Herford said.

Even though he's in his senior year, and he's played basketball for years, being under the lights on the court at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena had Herford in awe.

"We're not inside our gym, South Division playing Hamilton. We're here at the UWM Arena," Herford said.

On a typical game night, Herford and his teammates would be in their cramped gym. Instead, they were mesmerized -- taking selfies inside the Panther Arena.

"Most definitely the Jumbotron. Most definitely. Never had that at a high school game before. Never seen it before for me," Herford said.

South Division High School Head Coach Ty Moseler said he was happy to see their faces as they walked in, and he was also happy to share the history of the building with them.

"Ooohs and ahhhs -- you know, looking at how big it is. Most of them have never been in here. They don't understand this is where the Bucks used to play, and a lot of good players have sat in that lockerroom and we kind of joked, 'now you guys are sitting here. Kind of similar players -- NBA and you guys,'" Moseler said.

These kids got to take part in the first-ever City Review. Six Milwaukee Public Schools teams come together for three games on a big stage. MPS Commissioner of Athletics Bill Molbeck sees this as more than just a night of games.

"Some of our games tonight, if we were playing at our high school gyms, we wouldn't be able to get all of the people in that want to see those games. We're trying to promote all the good things that we do within Milwaukee. What we're kind of trying to do is showcase what MPS has to offer, not only basketball-wise, but showcase our student-athletes," Molbeck said.

But this is bigger than just basketball. This is about bringing the community together, and that's not lost on Herford.

"People get to know each other better, you know, and interact more. It's a better social setting than what it would usually be," Herford said.

It's also something the players can use in the immediate future, or even later.

"They can hopefully draw back on this experience as they're older, or if we're lucky enough in a month to be playing in a big sectional game with a lot of fans, it's not something that'll be the first time, you know?" Moseler said.

"This is something that'll be nice to look back on, maybe as I'm older," Herford said.

It may be something others will look back on as well.

"It's new history. They'll come in here to make some history themselves, too," Molbeck said.

Milwaukee Public Schools hopes to use the City Review as a chance to encourage its students to do their best so they have positive outcomes and future success.

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