Austin Llanas, left, and Walter Trush, dish out salad and pizza. The youth were Reach Out Reach In participants, a weeklong service project in the archdiocese, where students focused on serving others and social justice and advocacy efforts at sites throughout the archdiocese. (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel)

WAUKESHA – Standing 6 feet, 5 inches tall, former Milwaukee Bucks guard Jon McGlocklin has been a person youth have looked up to – figuratively and literally – for several decades.

This summer, 16 teens had an opportunity to hear from the athlete when he addressed his Catholic faith, the virtues of giving of one’s self and charting a course from adolescence into early adulthood.

McGlocklin was at St. William Parish July 30 for an hour-long question-and-answer session during the second track of Reach Out, Reach In, an initiative sponsored by the Milwaukee Archdiocese that emphasizes service work.

For more than three decades, McGlocklin has been as well known for his accomplishments on the basketball court as he has for his advocacy to find treatments for childhood cancer. When he retired in 1976, McGlocklin founded the nationally recognized MACC Fund organization.

McGlocklin was not raised a Catholic, but came to the faith as an adult on one fateful evening in a hotel room. He emphatically told his teen audience he reads the Bible every day. Serving, he said, is one of the best ways to outwardly demonstrate a reverence for Christ.

“I really tip my hat to you young people – even though I’m not a baseball player,” McGlocklin said to the teens in his audience.

“You’ve demonstrated a commitment to making yourselves better through programs like this,” McGlocklin continued. “You’re learning how to be a better Christian and are learning how to walk right. I hope you can pass this along to others.”

McGlocklin said the MACC Fund came to fruition, in part, because he was contemplating what he was going to do after closing out his 11-year stint in the NBA.

“I was always looking and searching and realized there is a means to an end,” McGlocklin said. “As you think about your futures, don’t worry. Just keep searching.”


Katherine Oreniczak serves cookies and nectarines to guests at the Open Door Café at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee on July 30. (Catholic Herald photo by John Kimpel

McGlocklin spoke about his basketball career that included winning the 1971 NBA championship on a team that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. When asked by a student what his most memorable game was, McGlocklin, a member of the Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Coaches Hall of Fame, said it was outside the parameters of his professional career.

The Indiana native, who is a member of the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame, said a high school game he played in as a senior will go down in history as the “most thrilling” for him. He led his team to a victory after triple overtime and two sudden deaths.

“There was a lot at stake, and it all played out like one of those movies where the basketball slowly circled the rim,” McGlocklin said. “When the ball went in, and we won, the fans came out and carried me off the court. When I’m in heaven, I’ll be talking to the Lord about this game.”

McGlocklin encouraged the teens to use college as a springboard for exploring their options. It might be hard to imagine with his accomplishments, but the NBA alumnus said he once contemplated going into teaching.

For information on Reach Out Reach In, a service week for high school teens sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, contact program administrator Gerry Wolf, (262) 781-6998, ext. 103; or by e-mail

McGlocklin said he has no regrets about becoming an athlete and pursuing basketball. He has two children, both of whom are involved in athletics, and four grandchildren. He remains connected to the game as a color analyst for all Milwaukee Bucks televised games with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I found that I really liked it when people were yelling at me; I liked the noise, and you’re definitely aware of it,” he said. “I could never play a game like tennis. It’s just too quiet.”

Mary Osep, one of two coordinators for the second track of Reach Out, Reach In, said McGlocklin was an ideal speaker since his involvement with the MACC Fund directly correlates to the activities and discussion within the weeklong program. The second track, established three years ago, emphasizes getting involved in advocacy to change laws or situations.

McGlocklin’s talk was one of several activities during RORI II. Participants also met with leaders of Fair Trade Milwaukee, an organization that emphasizes social justice by enhancing economic opportunities for those who are less advantaged, helped wash desks and chairs at Notre Dame Middle School on Milwaukee’s south side, served lunch at the Open Door Café located at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and planted flowers in the neighborhood around the Dominican Center, Milwaukee.

“The kids were great,” Osep said. “They were really there to serve and make a difference.”

RORI II is an offshoot of a long-running first track program established more than 20 years ago. About 50 students were part of RORI this summer. Fifteen teams spent the week housed at St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and went to 12 work sites and embarked on a series of service learning projects daily throughout the Milwaukee area.