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Rick Stansbury’s message to the Owensboro youth was simple Wednesday night: making the right decisions and working hard can lead to great success later in life.

Stansbury, the men’s basketball head coach at Western Kentucky University, was the keynote speaker at the 37th Annual Steak and Burger Dinner hosted by the Cliff Hagan Boys and Girls Club.

His coaching career dates back to 1981, with the most notable stint coming from 1998-2012 at Mississippi State University. There, he was the SEC Coach of the Year in 2004 after the Bulldogs won the conference in the regular season. He also led the team to two SEC tournament championships and five SEC Western Division titles.

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Other special guests were Bobby Rascoe and Owen Lawson, who both spent time in the NBA after standout careers at WKU. Rascoe was an all-American at Western Kentucky, while Lawson earned all-conference honors for the Hilltoppers.

After spending time talking about his excitement for the upcoming season, Stansbury sent a message specifically for the children scattered among the crowd.

“Nowadays, it’s not easy doing the right thing,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it’s a lot easier to do the wrong thing.”

Stansbury said he gives the same message to the young men each year on his college roster.

“I preach to our players that it’s not about what happens between the lines,” he said. “What happens outside those lines will determine what happens between them. We tell them to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it, and with the best effort and attitude possible.”

Stansbury said there’s no secret or magic dust that allows people to succeed. Instead, it’s all about focus and creating an atmosphere that promotes positive growth.

“You guys are facing a lot of bad situations,” he said. “When I grew up, we didn’t have all these distractions. You guys know right from wrong. Surround yourselves with people that will help you, people that want to do something with their lives.”

He also encouraged everyone to reach for their dreams — whether it was sports, college or a technical career — and not settle for anything less than their best.

“If you believe in something enough, have a love for it, have a passion for it, you can do it,” Stansbury said. “Sometimes college isn’t for everybody, and that’s ok. Go get a good skill. Whatever you decide to do in life, just be the best at it, no matter what it is.”

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