This is a story about a charity toy drive, and it involves the NCAA, which means something simple and good is still a bit … sticky.
Terrence Phillips, a junior guard on the Missouri basketball team, has started a nonprofit organization called “Beyond The Ball” with one of his friends, Ashley Reed, whom he met about a year ago. Per NCAA rules, Mizzou athletics can not help Beyond The Ball’s holiday toy drive — no collection boxes at Mizzou Arena’s entrances, no video advertisements during timeouts. Phillips had to receive an NCAA waiver to use his likeness on any promotions.
Phillips also had to delete all mention of Mizzou basketball from his social media accounts while promoting his charity. And Phillips said because his playing time has shrunk under new head coach Cuonzo Martin, that scrubbing led to questions about whether Phillips is transferring.
“No, I’m not transferring,” he said. “I’m ready to launch my nonprofit.”
Phillips’ charitable work should negate the notion that inconsistent playing time has him looking to leave. Martin has praised how Phillips has handled his changing role, and the point guard from California feels tied enough to this community to work through months of NCAA red tape.
“The whole kind of basis behind it was to give back to Columbia, a place that I’ve called home for about three years now, a place that I’ve really embraced,” Phillips said.
At first, Phillips and Reed had an idea for a backpack drive. Reed even made fliers. But by the time they thought of it, late this past summer, there was too much to get done for NCAA clearance and not enough time to do it. So they shifted their focus.
They received approval from the NCAA and Mizzou’s athletic compliance department in late November, just as Phillips was preparing to travel to Orlando, Florida, for a basketball tournament. A late start, they admitted. But this has worked.
They have five collection boxes set up around town: at an apartment complex, a couple of bars, a restaurant and a gymnastics studio. Willie’s, a local sports bar where Phillips worked as a bartender during this past summer, spent about $1,000 on toys at Walmart. That was enough for three or four carts full of toys.
“I got one of every Disney princess,” Willie’s general manager Brian Miller said.
At Reed’s apartment on Sunday, boxes from Walmart littered her bed. They came from people who purchased toys off of an online registry that Beyond The Ball set up.
Another box, which rose to the 5-foot-11 Phillips’ chest, sat on the floor. Toys almost filled it to the brim.
More gifts are coming. As of Tuesday afternoon, Beyond The Ball had raised $1,900 online to buy toys. Another Columbia restaurant, Campus Bar and Grill, pledged to donate all of the money it made off cover charges this past Saturday.
Beyond The Ball’s goal is about 300 toys, and Reed said that by the time the nonprofit hosts a cookie decorating party on Dec. 17 at a local theater, where the toys will be distributed to children in town, there should be an excess. This event, the culmination of the collection, is what Phillips is most excited about.
“He’s returned into a child over this,” Reed said of Phillips.
Phillips almost immediately knew which toy was his favorite when asked. It’s this batman mask that lights up at the eyes.
“It has a voice changer,” Phillips said. “... I’m really hoping a kid doesn’t take it because I might take it home with me.”
Before Missouri’s game Saturday, Phillips took a break from warming up to meet a young boy standing close to the court, on the student section bleachers.
The Tigers all do community service. But as an organized team activity, it can feel a bit like “forced action,” Phillips said. Not bad, but maybe not enough.
The point guard said he has received questions about what he plans to do with his nonprofit after this toy collection. He wants to do another one next year — and more after that. He wants to keep this going for as long as he can.
And he still wants to organize that backpack drive.