Ibaka Drops by Thunder Youth Basketball Camp

After a grueling eight months of NBA basketball, usually players take a few weeks away from the game to relax and decompress. Serge Ibaka clearly just can’t get enough of the game, and giving back to the Oklahoma City community.

Just days after the Thunder’s season ended with a tough Game 6 loss on Saturday to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Ibaka was back on the basketball court, ball in hand, going through drills. Instead of working with assistant coaches at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, however, Ibaka was working on the eight foot goals with some of the younger children attending the Thunder Youth Basketball junior camp at the Thunder Events Center in Edmond. Children from age 5-9 participate in the junior camps, which foster development of basketball skills and other lessons.

“I’m just hanging out with the kids, playing little games, having fun and making them smile,” Ibaka said. “It’s always good when you have an opportunity to come here and spend time with them.”

Ibaka ran through shooting, passing and dribbling drills and even took part in a game of Simon Says, along with a dribble-tag contest, where the kids have to keep their dribble going while trying to steal the ball from all of the other competitors. When one child became upset, Ibaka visited with him on the sidelines and talked him into rejoining the group, then stuck by his side until he was back in bright spirits.

As Ibaka walked through the doors and bounced from station to station, both the kids and parents could barely sit still with giddiness. Kellie Clements excitedly watched her son Schaefer while Bill Parker beamed at the fun his nine-year old daughter Madalyn was having. While the kids met with Ibaka personally, Clements and Parker glowed about the experience.

“It’s really fun to be here,” Clements said. “The kids wait all year to be able to participate in the Thunder camp. We came last year and got to meet Jeremy Lamb. So for Serge to walk in, we kind of all hoped that he would be here. He’s a favorite of our family. Our son was a little bit star-struck, but it’s great for him to be here with the kids and for them to learn from him.”

“It’s amazing,” Parker said. “She’s such a huge Thunder fan that the whole camp for her, from me, was a surprise. She had no idea she was even coming to the camp, so this is cool.”

Wednesday’s junior camp was one of ten total camps the Thunder is hosting this summer, including four camps for kids aged 10-16, four junior camps for kids 5-9 and two flex camps, available for kids aged 5-16. Each camp participant receives a Thunder Youth Basketball t-shirt, a $10 voucher for the Thunder Shop and a basketball. Parents like Clements have been so thrilled with the experience with the camps over the years, that it’s becoming a yearly tradition for families in the area.

“There were a lot of good fundamentals taught during the camp and we really saw my son’s interest in basketball spark after he came last year,” Clements said. “He’s not a very tall kid but he felt encouraged and motivated to still want to practice. We just put in a small basketball court at our house so this is probably something we’ll do year-after-year.”

To view the full schedule and register for Thunder Youth Basketball Summer Camps, visit: http://www.nba.com/thunder/corporatenews/youthcamps_140403