At Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the Jr. NBA hosted a basketball clinic to excite kids about the 2015–16 season. The tip-off in San Antonio was one of several held around the country to begin the first ever Jr. NBA Week, which featured events associated with all 30 NBA teams.
The Jr. NBA is a revamped effort by the league to encourage and teach kids ages six to 14 how to play basketball.
Cole High is located at Fort Sam Houston, and the event gave 75 children of military families the opportunity to participate in drills with help from San Antonio Spurs legend Bruce Bowen and current Spurs guard Patty Mills. The Jr. NBA wants to involve some of the biggest names in the game to show young players the skills and values of basketball.
“Basketball brings fun,” said Mills. “To be able to teach kids the right way to play basketball and what it means to play the right way, and for Bruce and me to be able to stand in front of them now and be their inspiration is what it’s all about.”
The event was put on by the Jr. NBA but was facilitated by Joint Base San Antonio, an affiliate of the Boys & Girls Club of America that includes kids from the four military bases in San Antonio.
“Having these opportunities for these kids is outstanding,” said Karen Rudolph, Flight Chief of Joint Base San Antonio Family Services. “It allows our community to see that people care about them as military families. Everybody knows these kids have a little different lives, so this brings a lot of spirit to them while their parents are serving their country.”
Kids rotated through drills that included working on defense, shooting, passing, and ballhandling.
The 44-year-old Bowen, a three-time NBA champion and a member of eight all-defensive teams, was all-in at the defense station. He dove, jumped, and ran all over the floor, bringing the same energy he always had with the Spurs to every activity with the kids.
“After years of playing basketball, it’s incredible to see how you have an impact on kids’ lives by just showing up and spending a little time with them,” said Bowen. “There is no greater joy than to share your time with these individuals who are raised on base and are getting the chance to grow with the NBA.”
Along with Bowen and Mills, the Spurs Coyote mascot and a couple of Spurs Silver Dancers showed up to give the kids a full NBA experience.
“This is the future of San Antonio and hopefully of basketball,” said Mills. “There may be future Spurs running around here, and [WNBA] Stars as well. It’s good to be able to come and give them that motivation.”
Both Bowen and Mills began playing basketball at a young age, so they hope these Jr. NBA events make kids believe they can play too. With over 100 clinics taking place throughout the United States and Canada, more kids are being reached by basketball than ever before.
Photos: Clarke Evans (NBA)