Bucks players and coaches have a ball hosting annual YMCA basketball clinic
By Brett Winkler
|Over 300 members of Metropolitan Milwaukee YMCAs took part in a basketball clinic held by the Bucks. Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE|
For a handful of Milwaukee Bucks players, practice at the Bucks Training Center on Sunday was one of their most enjoyable this season--although they weren't the ones taking part in the drills. Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Luke Ridnour spent the day coaching as the Bucks hosted their annual YMCA basketball clinic at the Cousins Center.
Over 300 members of Metropolitan Milwaukee YMCAs took part in the event, which featured six stations of drills--ball-handling, defense, free throws, passing, rebounding and shooting. The day started with an earlier afternoon section comprised of children aged eight through 12, followed by a younger section consisting of five to seven year-olds.
Both sections of kids, sporting a mix of Bucks jerseys and YMCA t-shirts, were divided into six groups. The groups were able to touch on all six skills as they rotated from station-to-station, with each area manned by a Bucks player or coach. As Mbah a Moute shuffled his participants from left to right in a defensive stance and Delfino revealed the art of the bounce pass, it was clear that the opportunity for the players to be able to help out with the clinic was a unique and fulfilling one for them.
"This is real cool just being able to work with kids and show them a couple of things to do with the basketball," said rookie point guard Jennings, who ran the campers through shooting drills. "To be here to give a couple hours to the little kids and teach them something means a lot."
Fellow point guard Luke Ridnour shared a similar sentiment to Jennings and recognized that it's not everyday that kids can receive free throw tips from the second-best free throw shooter in the NBA.
"For me, it's just good to give back," Ridnour said. "I remember when I was a kid going to these camps. I got to go to Sonics camp and see Gary Payton and guys like that. Just to be a part of that and give back to the community is always fun."
While it was rare for players like Jennings and Ridnour to get the chance to act as mentors, they weren't the only ones eager to pass along their knowledge to the youngsters. Bucks assistants Adrian Griffin, Bill Peterson and Kelvin Sampson, all of whom coach for a living, were just as excited to reach out to the boys and girls. Griffin partnered with Ilyasova at the rebounding station while Peterson taught ball-handling skills and Sampson oversaw numerous areas.
"I think it's important, especially in a market like ours, to give back to the community," said Coach Sampson, who always loved directing camps in his days as a collegiate coach. "But it also shows a human side to our players and coaches. People see us on TV and come to games and sometimes they don't realize that we're just like them. We have really good people in our organization. These are coaches and players, but first and foremost they're good people."
Thanks to those good people with the Bucks, as well as those with the YMCA, the two organizations have forged a great relationship together. Aside from hosting the basketball clinic for over 15 years, the Bucks partner with the YMCA on ticket deals and other community programs, something that Aaron Miller, Sports Director at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee Tri-County Branch, can appreciate.
"The Milwaukee Bucks organization has done just an unbelievable job with us at the Y," Miller said. "It's been a great partnership with the Y and Metro Milwaukee and you can see it in the parents, families and everybody having a chance to come out here."
Indeed, it wasn't just the kids who were excited to spend Sunday at the Cousins Center. The flashbulbs and recording devices were prevalent in the packed balcony overlooking the court as many green-and-red-clad parents watched their progeny interact with the players and coaches below.
"I don't know who's the bigger kid out here," Miller joked, "Dad or the child out there playing. A lot of the parents were around when some of these banners were hung, so it's a chance for them to see the practice facility."
If the parents enjoyed themselves as much as their children, that's just fine to Miller, one of many YMCA directors focused on centering initiatives around families. Certainly, the Bucks basketball clinic accomplishes that. By January each year, Miller already has parents inquiring about the event that he says is circled on plenty of calendars.
"You can see how many kids have their Jennings jerseys and Bogut jerseys. To have the chance to come here and actually see (players) in person and hear them talk for a little bit is a huge deal. It gives them maybe a little glimpse of what all the hard work could be. Granted, they're not going to all be NBA players, but it shows you what hard work can do, either in the classroom or any profession that you want to do."
And who knows? Maybe one of the YMCA campers 15 years from now will fondly recall the Bucks clinic as helping to pave the path to the NBA or WNBA, similar to Ridnour's memories of camp with the Seattle SuperSonics, with whom he spent the first five years of his NBA career.
"You take all the players in the NBA and you started somewhere," Coach Griffin said. "You started when you were very little and you didn't get to where you were without a lot of people helping you."
Regardless of whether the participants of this year's YMCA basketball clinic go on to contribute in the pros or never so much as set foot on the Bucks practice floor again, the Bucks and the YMCA agree that the clinic has been successful in ways bigger than basketball.
"We would much rather see these kids become better people and better students than better basketball players," Miller said. "That's one thing that NBA Cares and the Bucks have done a great job of teaching us."