Jr. Celtics Clinic Visits Practice Facility

WALTHAM, Mass. - Sneakers squeaked, medicine balls were hoisted and sprinting-sleds were pushed up the sideline on Saturday morning at HealthPoint. On any given day you can find 7-foot tall, familiar faces running through drills on this court because it is, after all, the practice facility of the Boston Celtics.

On Saturday, it wasn’t just the Celtics who were not making all of the noise.

The Celtics were joined by more than 30 eighth- and ninth-grade players from Mattapan, Brighton, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Watertown and Waltham who participated in the Jr. Celtics Strength & Conditioning Clinic, presented by New England Baptist Hospital.

The morning began when the youth followed Boston Celtics Community Relations Manager Dave Hoffman through the media room and onto bleachers that overlook the practice court.

“Whoa!” said a teen from the Tobin Community Center. “Is this where the Celtics actually practice,” he asked rhetorically.

After the group settled down and became comfortable in the presence of the Boston Garden’s original championship banners, Hoffman introduced a few special guests. Strength and conditioning coaches Bryan Doo and Armand LaVallee appeared from behind a backdrop and fired the kids up by asking them if they were ready to workout. The kids hooted and hollered but got even louder when rookie forward JaJuan Johnson was introduced.

After the kids calmed down, Doo, LaVallee and Johnson went on to talk to them about the importance of working out and strengthening their bodies.

“Danny Ainge once told me that the most valuable trait a player can posses is to be ‘available’”, Doo said. “Some players are great shooters, some players are great ball handlers, some players are great rebounders, but if a player is injured and in street clothes, he can’t help the team.”

LaVallee went on to talk about the importance of diet and properly fueling your body as an athlete.

“If you put bad fuel in your body, you will get bad performance,” he pointed out.

Johnson concluded the introductions by talking about his experience going from college to the NBA over the last few months.

“In the NBA, everybody is as tall as I am so I can’t just rely on my size,” he said. “Every day I work with Doo to strengthen my core. It has really helped me so far.”

With the kids itching to set foot on the practice floor, Doo, LaVallee and Johnson led them through an active warm-up.

“It is important to get the blood flowing to your muscles before starting your workout,” Doo exclaimed. “Otherwise, you will get injured.”

With the kids properly warmed up, Johnson broke the players up into groups of five for some drill stations. For the next 30 minutes, the kids rotated through a rigorous strength and conditioning combine which included ladder drills, agility work, medicine ball exercises, resistance sprints and a push-up course.

Some of the teens had experienced things like this before, but for most of the youth, this was a whole new level of working out. Johnson led a group of female players through the ladders, instructing them to “go slow if you need to. It is better to get it right slowly than to get it wrong quickly.”

Over on the other side of the court, a group of kids from the Hyde Park YMCA sprinted, shuffled and chopped their way through cones set up like the “four” side of a dice.

“Make sure you chop your feet as you approach the cone,” Doo shouted. “This simulates you closing out to an offensive player when you are on defense.”

Once the final buzzer sounded and the players rotated through all of the stations, everyone reconvened on the bleachers. Doo, LaVallee and Johnson took some final questions from the group about life in the NBA, on the road and playing against the world’s best players every night.

“It takes a lot of hard work to make it to this level. But in order to succeed in the NBA, it takes even more work. Make sure you work hard every single day,” Johnson told the group. “We showed you a bunch of drills that you can do in your driveway, at the park or in your school today. These drills don’t require much equipment. You just need to bring a lot of effort, which, after today, I know you can handle.”

On the way out of the gym, all of the players got a signed basketball from Johnson. For the kids, it will serve as a reminder of the day that they got to work out as an NBA player.