Players, Kids Have Fun at Thunder Fit Clinic

Thunder guard Daequan Cook pounded the basketball into the floor at John Marshall Mid-High School with his right hand, concentrating on only one thing, which was making eye contact with each and every middle school student who were also dribbling across from him. Cook shouted out, "Eyes up, smiles up!" to each student as he taught them the proper way to dribble the ball while also keeping their heads up. Cook, who was especially vibrant throughout the day, and his teammates Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson and Ryan Reid spent their afternoon on their off day teaching students everything from basketball skills to nutrition methods as a part of the Thunder Fit Clinic.

"I'm always into it, especially when we're giving back to the community and the younger kids that look up to us," Cook said. "It's always important to be able to give back. One of the ways we always give back is doing the Thunder Fit, to help kids stay healthy, stay strong, do the right things with their bodies on and off the court. For me to be a part of this, it's great."

A group of 60 sixth-to-eighth grade students had the opportunity to learn healthy eating habits and cardio exercises from the Thunder players, while also having the opportunity to practice dribble and layups. Jackson and Aldrich tried their hand at the jump rope station, but the 6'10" Aldrich found himself to be a bit too tall for the middle-school sized jump ropes. After each group of students had rotated to all of the stations, the four Thunder players took on four middle schoolers in a quick game of four-on-four. Keyshawn S., a seventh grader, was one of the lucky ones to join in on the game and said he had a great time.

"It was a good experience for me and a couple of my friends." Keyshawn said. "We had fun, I could tell we were working hard. It means a lot to us."

Erica McCollum, a life skills, health and nutrition teacher and softball coach at the school said that sixth grade was a great place to start learning the lessons of healthy eating and exercising, so the Thunder's message couldn't have been more on point throughout the day. The day ended with a question and answer session to see what the kids had learned throughout the day and to test their knowledge of Thunder basketball. The students passed with flying colors and each received a Thunder shoulder bag filled with gifts. Needless to say, the day turned out to be a great success for the school.

"It was amazing, it was awesome," McCollum said. "The kids were excited and energetic the whole time, so it was great to have them here. It means a lot for our kids. It's always awesome to have somebody come in from the community, especially prominent members like that, and to see them interact with the kids and create that experience they normally get."

Amid all the excitement and fun that the Thunder players were having along with the students, it became hard to believe that these Thunder players are right in the midst of a stretch of three games in four nights. Last night the Thunder won a hard-fought game against the Phoenix Suns, and then it hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats on Friday and Saturday. Despite all of that, these four Thunder players were still out in the community, giving back and making a difference.

"It just shows how much we really care about our community as a whole," Cook said of the Thunder organization. "Regardless of our jobs and what we have going on, we still have time out of our days on our off days to do things like this. The whole (state) of Oklahoma looks up to us, especially starting with our youth."