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Players weigh options on $50,000 grant

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  March 24, 2011 10:56 PM

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It's no secret that any and everything can turn into a debate in the Celtics' locker room. But, for the first time, the Shamrock Foundation decided to let the players choose how to use the money it had raised and when director Kate Green walked into the lion's den at the team's practice facility she had no idea how animated the dialogue would get.

The process started off Democratic enough.

"They're all sitting around in the locker room in the practice facility," she said. "We handed them the ballot, they took a vote."

But as the different ideas bounced around, the debate started, the voices got louder and the opinions go stronger. No one was louder than Kevin Garnett.

"Tell us where the need is," he said. "What can we do? What do we need to do?"

"He's a private guy," Green said. "But it doesn't mean that he doesn't care -- at all."

So she and community relations director Matt Meyersohn told them some of the issues schools were facing. When they mentioned some Boston Public Schools were considering cutting recess, she nearly floored Rajon Rondo.

"Rondo was aghast about that," Green said.

The players kept the ideas coming. Some wanted to use the money for diabetes. Some wanted to refurbish a court. Ray Allen had presented a school with a computer lab ealier in the season and wanted to do it again.

"I saw the players wanting to do more," Green said.

They ultimately decided to use $50,000 to build a computer lab for a local school. Yesterday, that lab was unveiled at the Rafael Hernandez School in Roxbury. Jeff Green, Von Wafer, Avery Bradley and Carlos Arroyo were there to help the students break in the new machines.

Compared to the equipment the school had been using before, Green said, ""It was like Atari is to PS3."

One thing that struck Green at yesterday's unveiling was that a couple of the students were using smartphones to record the players and co-owner Steve Pagliuca.

"They had better technology in their pockets than they had at their school," Green said.

For the new lab, the Celtics repainted the walls, installed new floors and furniture and set up a SMART board, creating a state-of-the-art environment. But it was more satisfying, Green said, because it was the players' brainchild.

"It was up to them what they thought was the biggest need," she said. "We wanted them to feel more connected to the foundation since we're supporting the community and we support the players and we wanted it to come full circle."

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