JUNIOR CLIPPERS TIP OFF

The gymnasium bleachers at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) were filled with parents and family members of Junior Clippers participants this past Saturday. With camera phones out and ready, parents patiently waited to watch their children participate in the annual Junior Clippers Tip-Off.

More than 100 children attended the event, which marked the beginning of a three-month program that runs through the end of March.

A partnership between the Clippers and Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks, the Jr. Clippers program aims to promote the fundamentals of basketball, sportsmanship and athletics as an alternative to negative influences for children ages 5-16. The Clippers help to alleviate some of the costs extended to inner-city families participating in the LACRP City Wide Basketball program. The recreation centers selected to participate in the Junior Clippers program are those centers where resources and the surrounding communities’ resources are most lacking.

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The event began with a series of stretching exercises led by Clippers alumni Lamond Murray. Children were then divided into groups and placed at different basketball skill stations. Clippers center Ryan Hollins and guards Maalik Wayns and Darius Morris all helped coach and mentor the participants throughout each station of drills. From dribbling to passing, shooting to defensive drills, each Clippers player helped to ensure that children were working hard while also having fun.

“It’s a huge deal for these kids, getting outside, being fit, seeing their favorite NBA players,” Hollins said. ”We’re just trying to give these kids as much encouragement as possible so they’ll get outside, play and be active.”

For Wayns, the Junior Clippers Tip-Off is all about making a difference.

“Events like this mean a lot to me,” Wayns said. “When I was a kid, I wish I could have had NBA players come to my neighborhood and come play with me for a couple of hours. You may not make a difference in every kid’s life but you may make a difference in one or two and they’ll remember it for life. That’s always good to do.

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“I’m from a place like this; I grew up like this and I’ll never forget where I come from. I was these kids growing up so I’m just glad that I can help them out.” 

For families involved in the program, the Junior Clippers offer a one-of-a-kind experience. Vivian, a parent of a participating child talked about the opportunity that her daughter has been given through the program.

“I just love how excited my daughter gets about these events and the interaction that she has,” Vivian said. “The best part is that she’s learning. When we get home, all she wants to do is practice. Every new skill she learns, she really takes it with her and does her best to improve on it.”

Eight year old Ky, a participant from the Rosecrans Recreation Center, added: “I learned a new kind of pass where you throw it over your head. I’ve never done that before. It’s pretty cool to learn from those really tall dudes.”