Rayvon’s Journey: From Price Hill Courts to College Arenas

Rayvon with youth – Photo by and used with permission from A.J. Fullam with 6S Photography

In the tight-knit community of Lower Price Hill, Rayvon Griffith’s talent on the basketball court became the talk of the neighborhood very early on in his life. When he joined the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit playing for the North Coast Blue Chips alongside LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., more people began to take notice. His exposure in the national spotlight led to him playing in front of NBA stars and under the watchful eyes of seasoned coaches who could significantly shape his athletic journey.

With help from a supportive network of family, coaches, teachers, pastors, youth leaders, and mentors from Santa Maria’s Joe Williams Family Center (JWFC), Rayvon has forged a path of incredible success through sheer grit and guidance. Rayvon’s ascent from local basketball courts to the college arena is a tribute to his resilience.

Having older siblings who participated in Santa Maria’s Youth Development program, when Rayvon entered junior high he already knew JWFC was a safe place to go after school. From the beginning, Rayvon was known by JWFC staff for his love of family, friends, and basketball, balanced with a sharp wit and a zest for life. Jessica Polzin, Youth Development Program Coordinator, fondly recalled, “When I first met Rayvon as a young boy, I met him on the basketball court. He loved his family, loved life, loved his friends, and of course loved basketball. He was always looking for ways to make people laugh.”

Other JWFC staff agreed. Rayvon’s outlook was consistently positive, a perspective reinforced by strong community ties. “The true testament to Rayvon’s success is his dedication to improving not only his athletic skills but his life skills,” shared Jessica.

Rayvon and his mother, Felicia Griffith

While Santa Maria’s JWFC provided a nurturing backdrop, it was Rayvon’s own effort and decision-making that was crucial to his success. Along with a long list of mentors, JWFC staff were happy to be part of the supportive network that backed him. Jessica added, “Rayvon is a tremendous athlete with a kind and compassion-ate soul. His love for his momma is absolutely adorable!”

When Rayvon first came to the JWFC, Jim Holmstrom, former Youth Development Director and current volunteer mentor at JWFC, recognized Rayvon’s unyielding discipline right away. “Rayvon is dedicated to pushing himself and improving his strength and basketball skills,” Jim noted, reflecting on Rayvon’s commitment that led him to be invited to participate in a special program at Santa Maria for further skill enhancement.


During his participation in that program, Rayvon engaged in community service, educational trips, and activities that enhanced his life skills, like conflict resolution and problem-solving. His significant development, finding joy in basketball, and becoming skilled at managing life’s challenges, was evident early on. At 12, Rayvon shared his thoughts on JWFC with Local 12 news, saying, “Santa Maria is a place where grown-ups show us love, compassion, and really care about us.” His experiences at JWFC boosted his confidence and helped shape him into a leader and a role model.

As Rayvon progressed through school, he kept returning to JWFC, receiving advice and guidance from mentors who helped broaden his aspirations. Following a stellar high school career, he navigated the college recruitment process and secured a scholarship to play for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, starting his college career in the fall of 2023.

Rayvon with Jim Holmstrom

During his freshman year of college, Rayvon returned to JWFC to connect with young athletes in the Youth Development program, highlighting the balance of academics and athletics. “It’s hard at first, being a freshman with older players, but once you get comfortable and start learning from them, you become a better player and teammate,” he explained in a Q & A session. He emphasized academic discipline, noting, “Every day, before we do anything, we still gotta make it to class on time, meet with academic advisors, and make sure our grades are right so we can play.”

Rayvon’s visit was special for both current and former Santa Maria staff, who have witnessed his development. Bri Wilson, the current Youth Development Director, praised his ongoing impact, saying, “Rayvon exemplifies the positive impact our programs can have on the lives of young people. His journey reflects the core values of Santa Maria – providing a supportive environment where youth can thrive and succeed.”

As the discussion progressed, Rayvon shared practical advice with aspiring athletes about the importance of education: “At some point, the ball will stop bouncing, so you always need something to fall back on. Getting a degree really helps for multiple jobs in the future.” He also counseled resilience after setbacks: “After a loss, everybody’s down because you wanted to win, but you can’t let that affect your next performance. You gotta work harder to get better and fix mistakes.”

Rayvon’s transition to college marks a new chapter that will undoubtedly be filled with challenges and triumphs. His achievement of joining his hometown University of Cincinnati basketball team is just the beginning of his aspirations toward an NBA career. Jim expressed continued optimism for Rayvon’s future, noting, “It is way too soon to know if Rayvon will achieve his basketball goals, but I truly believe that Rayvon will be successful in life regardless.”

Rayvon’s story underscores the profound influence of personal resolve and supportive community roles. As he progresses, both on and off the court, Santa Maria and Lower Price Hill proudly witness his growth, celebrating the impressive young man he has become and the promising future he is destined to achieve. In celebrating Rayvon’s journey, we are reminded of the immense potential each young person has to rise above challenges and achieve greatness, fueled by their own determination and supported by a community that believes in their potential.