With her hand raised as high as a 10-year-old can reach, Avery Hadley anxiously waved back and forth, hoping to get the attention of the four Montana State University Billings basketball players at the front of the gym.
They asked for volunteers to do an alley-oop, and Avery wanted to be their girl.
To her excitement, she was chosen. The red-haired fifth-grader ran past her classmates and stood among the men, successfully setting up the play for forward Robert Mayes, who standing at 6-foot 7-inches, towered over the girl.
Giddy, the girl scurried back to her group of friends, hardly able to contain herself.
"I got to throw him an alley-oop, and it was really cool," Avery said.
Mayes, along with center Emery Henning, guard Chase Richards and guard Jaxon Myaer, stopped by St. Francis Intermediate School on Monday to read books to students, talk to them about college education and show them some moves on the hardwood.
Slam dunks aside, Avery said she learned an important lesson during their visit.
"They taught us to always stay in school and keep our grades up," Avery said.
While meeting with a group of fifth-graders, the four players shared when they were first introduced to sports, how they chose between them once they enrolled in college and how important academics were and still are to their future.
Henning said he used to play baseball, basketball and football in high school. He knew he favored basketball, but sometimes feels a void.
"Now that I look back, I miss those two other sports," Henning told the students. "I recommend playing sports as much as you can while you are young."
Things outside of sports are just as important, they said. Myaer was in drama class in high school and sang, while Mayes didn't even start playing sports until he was in high school.
Despite the extracurricular activities, education should come first, they said.
"We are student athletes, not athlete students — remember that," Henning said to the class.
That advice impressed the teachers, who said they need positive role models for their students.
"We are appreciative of their time, coming down here because they are role models for our kids," said teacher Marianne Kale. "It was pretty impressive how they were talking about athletics and academics."
Myaer said it's important for them to give back to the community and reach out to the next generation.
He said it is crucial to push the importance of education, as well as athletics, at a young age.
They try to visit different schools and charities several times a year.
"It's a good experience spending time with these kids, getting active in the community that supports us," Myaer said.