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Cash set for special McKeesport homecoming

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 4:07 a.m.
Swin Cash speaks at the dedication of the Swintayla Cash Recreation Center in McKeesport's Harrison Village in June of 2005 with then-Mayor James R. Brewster showing support. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Swin Cash speaks at the dedication of the recreation center in McKeesports Harrison Village named in her honor on June 20, 2005. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News Swin Cash addresses supporters at the dedication of the Swintayla Cash Recreation Center in June of 2005.

The athletic achievements — a WPIAL basketball championship at McKeesport Area, two NCAA championships at UConn, three WNBA championships in Detroit and Seattle and a pair of Olympic gold medals — have made McKeesport native Swin Cash a famous woman.

She intends on using that fame to touch lives in ways that exceed basketball, and her hometown wants to thank Cash in a special way.

Cash will be honored by the city at the Palisades in McKeesport on Oct. 27. The city will be finalizing details in coming weeks.

“Swin is different than other people,” said Gerald “Puddin'” Grayson, her high school coach. “She's special.”

Cash has traveled the world while becoming one of history's most famous and decorated female basketball players. Her heart, though, was always in McKeesport.

Grayson remembers a story that will always stick with him.

“It was during the Olympics when Swin was overseas,” Grayson said. “There she was, playing for a gold medal. But instead of worrying about that, she had heard about a murder in McKeesport. She called me and asked if there was anything she could do to help. She said to me, ‘Coach, I'm worried about McKeesport.'”

Cash, 33, isn't done playing just yet. She believes she has “a few years” left, but Cash has already developed a retirement plan.

Much of it revolves around helping the community she loves.

“For most of my career,” Cash said, “when I would come back to Western Pennsylvania, I pretty much always craved my privacy. But I've learned that I'm lucky to have a platform, and I think when you've got a platform, you've got to do your best to help children and to be a great role model. That's what I want to do.”

Grayson insists that the youth of McKeesport will never have a better role model than Cash, whose indisputable fame — she's recently excelled in television work, offering commentary on NBA and WNBA games, something she intends on continuing — has never bloated her ego.

There has never been an ego to bloat, Grayson maintains.

“She's the most well-rounded person you'll ever meet in your life,” Grayson said. “Character is everything to Swin.”

Giving back to the community is pretty high on her agenda, too.

Her foundation — Cash for Kids — started in Chicago and soon will be based in Pittsburgh. She also is working on a book that will be titled “A Humble Journey.”

“McKeesport did so much for me while I was growing up,” Cash said. “It really means the world to me to have a chance to give back to the city. McKeesport has had its share of problems in recent years. I want to help in any way that I can. I know kids look up to me in McKeesport, especially young girls. I want to do everything I can to be a great role model for them.”

Cash currently resides in Atlanta but will be spending more time in McKeesport in the future.

“It's home,” she said. “I'll always love it there.”

People in McKeesport will always love her, too.

“I've known her since she was a little girl,” said state Sen. James Brewster, the former McKeesport mayor. “She's not just a role model for kids, but for people in general. Given the conditions of McKeesport and what it has been through, the city is so lucky to have someone like her. She's a beautiful person.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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