Youth Camps End in All Smiles

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@thunder-nba.com

In the spring, Ray Brunk, father of 15-year-old Jordan Brunk, asked his son to pick where he wanted to go to basketball camp this summer and that no matter what, he’d make it happen. Without hesitating, Jordan said the Thunder Youth Basketball Camp.

The Brunk’s live in the small town of Tovey, Ill., but a promise was a promise for Ray, meaning the father-son pair made the 10-hour drive from Illinois to Oklahoma City this week to take part in the last off 11 Thunder Youth Basketball Camps being held this summer. To Jordan, the chance to be close to the Thunder organization in any way was worth the trek. He’s been a fan of the team for years because of how the team operates on the court as a unit.

“It’s how they work together,” Jordan explained. “KD, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the whole team combined is a championship contender every year.”

Later this week, Jordan will get the chance to attend Kevin Durant’s basketball camp, but both he and his father have been extremely impressed by the lessons he’s learned at the Thunder Events Center.

“He’s been playing basketball since he’s been old enough to play,” Ray Brunk said. “There are little things that he’s picked up on yesterday and the day before. Every day he picks up something different, something additional that he hasn’t had for the last few years that he’s played.”

Jordan wasn’t the only kid from out of state to attend a Thunder Youth Basketball Camp this summer. 20 campers traveled from 14 U.S. states besides Oklahoma and two kids even came all the way from Guam to be a part of the camps, which are coached by former high school, collegiate and professional players.

Sometimes, like on Wednesday, a Thunder player stops by to join in on that coaching. With a whistle at the ready, Thunder third-year forward Perry Jones took control of the camp and some of the dribbling, passing and shooting drills that serve as staples of the camp to build habits and fundamentals.

Jones’ attention to each child was remarkable, as has his commitment to donating his time. The 6’11” forward has been very active this summer in giving back to Oklahoma City youth, attending camps and interacting with the children with enthusiasm and genuine interest.

“Just being able to interact with them, have fun with them, show them that we’re normal as well and that we like to have fun, that’s a great feeling,” Jones said.  

“I see a lot of kids smiling the whole time I’m there, asking a lot of questions,” Jones said. “They’re kids and they’re curious. I’m glad that they feel comfortable asking me questions, feel comfortable talking to me and treating me like I’m a kid as well.”

Jones was hit with basic basketball questions like his jersey number, his height and whether he could dunk all the way to questions about teammates like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. He was peppered all day by the inquisitive minds of the 5-to-16 year-olds at camp, but answered each question and encouraged each child to keep learning and trying.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the day, however, came when the conversations were done and the action on the court heated up. Stepping inside the lane amongst a dozen campers, Jones and Jordan Brunk both participated in a game of dribble knockout, where each player tries to keep their dribble alive while swatting the ball away from the other competitors.

In the end, it was Jones and Brunk as the last two men standing, which was exactly the way the latter dreamed his trip to Thunder Youth Basketball Camp would conclude.

“I was excited,” Jordan said. “I wanted to meet him, I wanted to shake his hand and play a couple of games with him.”

Brunk got his wish, and between attending the Thunder camp and Durant’s camp later this week, he and his father will have plenty of unforgettable memories to discuss on that 10-hour drive back home to Illinois.