Former Buffalo Basketball Star On Life after Prison

10:41 AM, May 14, 2011   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - Former Buffalo basketball star Ritchie Campbell still holds scoring records. He went to prison for manslaughter and now wants to use his bad experience to help others.

He also has a message for his victim's family.

Campbell, 39, smiles when you mention his basketball accomplishments. Tears stream down his face when he talks about a tragic incident that he maintains was "an accident" in 1994.

Campbell doesn't blame anyone for his mistakes, but there is no doubt his environment and lack of education played a role in how he developed after high school.

The former Burgard High School standout player says his reading and writing level was far below his grade level.  After completing his freshman year at DeSales High School in Lockport, he had not earned two credits.  He was a few credits shy of the required credits to graduate from Burgard. 

When asked if he was failed by the school system, he admits he should have put the same effort into his class work as he did on the basketball court.

However, the results have not changed too much over the years. "You got so many kids that's not graduating, the numbers don't lie," he said.

Ritchie Campbell was a scoring machine. In four years, he scored over 2,000 points and rarely missed from the three-point line on the court.  Mike Milovich has been around youth athletics in the city of Buffalo for over two decades. He said Campbell was "one of the best basketball players to ever come out of the city of Buffalo."

Farjri Ansari who has been a mentor to Campbell says he was destined to be a "pro".

Campbell played in leagues while a youngster against some of the best ball players in the U.S. during the 80's and 90's. Some of those players like Kenny Anderson and Chris Weber moved on to play in the NBA.

After high school and community colleges, Campbell's involvement with alcohol and drugs gots the best of him. He went to jail for a few months. 

Twelve days after he was released he said he did something that ruined his life, and the life of others.

In April 1994, Campbell says he was playing with a gun after he had been drinking all day. He was at his girlfriend's house. He says the weapon went off and the bullet struck a woman, Yvette Donaldson. 

Campbell was 22-years-old at the time. Donaldson was 32-years-old. The two did not know one another.  

"My world just came crashing on me, just crashing on me. I couldn't believe what I was involved in," said Campbell.

Donaldson was the mother of a baby girl when she died a few days after the shooting.  "This little girl will never have her mother again because of me, because of this careless mistake I made...how can I not live productive out here," said Campbell.

He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to the maximum 12 1/2 - 25 years. He was released after nearly 17 years.

Campbell says he wants to make amends with the victim's family. "I would listen to them and what they have to say. As far as what I have to say, the word 'sorry' seems so empty.  The only thing I can do is be productive out here."

Campbell can still make long range jumpshots on the court. One way he wants to be a productive citizen is to encourage young people to not follow his path. He says if he can encourage a young person to avoid drugs and pay attention in school, that would bring a smile to his face.

"I paid the price, you don't have to go through that," said Campbell.

Watch Claudine Ewing's interview with Ritchie Campbell.

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