“Real important:” Eric Bledsoe visits Messmer Catholic Schools as part of Bucks’ mentorship program

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MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks are a team on the rise. They have a superstar, a new arena under construction and a growing fan base -- and there's something else they're hoping to give back to the city.

"The Milwaukee Bucks are serious about building a team. We are obviously excited they are building an arena and we know that the Bucks organization is excited about building up Milwaukee. The mentorship program is a vital element to that," Jim Piatt, president of Messmer Catholic Schools said.

Bucks' guard Eric Bledsoe has spent time at the school working with the boys and girls basketball teams.

"It demonstrates to young people that there is a sincere interest. They are not just customers and occasional guests of the Bucks. The Bucks have a sincere interest in their growth and the future of the Milwaukee community," Piatt said.

"They need someone that is established, like an NBA player, any type of professional athlete to come back and share that they were in their position when they were younger as well. To do what they did to make it out. It's real important," Bledsoe said.

Milwaukee Bucks arena

Eric Bledsoe

While the message works in basketball, it also works in the bigger game of life.

"Never give up. Don't ever give up chasing the dream, because you can always help someone else along the way," Bledsoe said.

"I think the students head loud and clear -- that focus and hard work on your goals, and believing in yourself. Eric talked about his mother as his hero and role model. Having people that you listen to and look up to, defining that focus and following that focus with deep purpose," Piatt said.

The message resonated with the players at Messmer, like Ayana Smith.

"I took away that the only way to be great is to work hard at it and never give up and never let anyone tell you you can't do something or be something -- yo just be the best at whatever you do and just strive for it, keep going," Smith said.

Eric Bledsoe at Messmer Catholic Schools

Jim Piatt

As construction continues on the new Bucks arena, Piatt said the work from Bledsoe and the Bucks is helping to construct better opportunities for the kids as Messmer.

"We believe our students are to build leadership, build service, build a community, build their integrity, build their lives, build their resumes and build their careers and they got a chance to hear from someone who has done just that today," Piatt said.

January is National Mentor Month, and Bucks officials said the Bucks will be taking part in mentorship activities all month.