The 5-to-16-year old kids at Thunder Youth Basketball Camp looked on with eagerness and screamed to the top of their lungs as Thunder guard Reggie Jackson battled to the end of a high-intensity game of dribble knockout. All afternoon, Jackson, heading into his third season with the Thunder, mingled with the campers and got involved in all of their drills. During the basketball portions of camp did Jackson have the kids awaiting his every move and during the question-and-answer session, hanging on every work.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Jackson said. “I’m truly blessed, especially to have fans like these and be out here with them. It’s just a great experience.”
The afternoon was split up into two sections, with Jackson meeting with the nine-to-16 year-olds first, joining in on a game of knockout and contest that pitted members of different teams against one another to see who could grab a ball at half court and make two layups before the other. By the time Jackson popped over to an adjacent gymnasium where the 5-to-8 year-old campers were stationed, he was already beginning to build up a sweat.
With a cheery smile, the Thunder point guard went through a similar sequence with the younger kids, and that’s when the chants started in full force. Visits like this one from Jackson and other Thunder players are an important part of Thunder Youth Basketball Camps because it provides a special moment that each child will hold dearly now and in the future. When players are particularly involved like Jackson was, it also helps Youth Basketball Coordinator Keeton Peery and his staff run the camps more effectively.
“He was very active and pretty vibrant,” Peery said. “They love it. We express to the kids that they’re lucky and that not every kid gets to come to camps like this. It’s great when they come by and play with the kids.”
In addition, these trips into the community, particularly to meet kids, help those in Oklahoma City get first hand contact with the players they watch on television or from the stands. As fellow human beings, these interactions are priceless, and further augment the family-style relationship between the city and the team.
“They’re grown men, but they’re still kids at heart,” Peery said. “It lets them know they’re real people.”
Not only are these camps exhilarating for the children, but they create a feeling of happiness and nostalgia for many of the players. Jackson was reminded of his childhood, attending basketball camps and simply trying to play as hard as he could, have fun and get better. Looking at some of the kids at Casady School, Jackson remembered some of those fond moments of his youth and realized that these kids are in the same position as he once was.
“Activities like this always lights up my face thinking back when I was a kid, at a camp playing ball and having fun,” Jackson said. “You see how far you can go with it.”
Chants of “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” rained down at Casady School in north Oklahoma City on Tuesday afternoon.