It's an article of faith that many American children look up to professional athletes as role models. They see a baseball player hit a home run, a football player score a touchdown or a basketball player dunk and they want to be like them.

It's an article of faith that many American children look up to professional athletes as role models. They see a baseball player hit a home run, a football player score a touchdown or a basketball player dunk and they want to be like them.


Some athletes are not deserving of such adulation. Some get caught up in performance-enhancing drugs, episodes of violence, prima donna-ism and other damaging behavior. Because these athletes are role models, some parents are understandably concerned that their children will seek to emulate them.


One professional athlete worthy of admiration is Andre Iguodala, the Philadelphia 76ers star who returns here to his hometown each year for numerous charity events, including the annual Andre Iguodala Celebrity Basketball Game, which was held in July this year.


Iguodala played for Lanphier High School and helped lead the team to a second-place finish in the Class AA state basketball tournament in 2002.


Not long ago, sports editor Jim Ruppert listed some of the 24-year-old Iguodala’s contributions to the community in which his mother, Linda Shanklin, still lives:


--Established the Andre Iguodala Disaster Relief Fund in March 2006 for Springfield tornado victims and donated $35,000 for the relief effort.


--Donated money each of the past three summers to the District 186 athletic funds.


--Purchased a new basketball scoreboard in the Lanphier High School gym.


--Held a youth basketball camp with former NBA player and current University of Illinois at Springfield coach Kevin Gamble.


Iguodala's charitable efforts do not end with Springfield. He has donated thousands of books to children in the Philadelphia area and participated in the 76ers’ Drive for Kids program. The Sporting News named the 6-foot-6-inch guard/forward one of its “Good Guys” in 2006 for his charitable efforts.


Iguodala could have left this community behind when he became an NBA star, but he didn’t. He sends a message to kids that no matter what you do with your life, it’s important to do your best and help those less fortunate than you.


That says a lot about his character and commitment to his roots. That commitment was on display again this month in an interview he gave to The State Journal-Register’s SO Magazine.


Iguodala wants to establish a sports academy here that would be “a place for kids to come and get training where they don’t have to spend a ton of money to go get baseball training or football training or basketball. Sort of like an expanded Boys & Girls Club.”


We commend Iguodala for his efforts here and look forward to seeing what he plans for the future.


State Journal-Register