Basketball Fundamentals a Hit at Thunder Fit

Eric Maynor’s eyes were up, staring dead ahead with laser-beam focus as he firmly used a between-the-legs crossover dribble to move down the lane. Two feet to his left was a Cimarron Middle School student, trying to emulate the same moves as the Thunder’s steady point guard at his side.

Of course Maynor’s ball-handling prowess was on display at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Wednesday night’s win against the Houston Rockets, but it was also being implemented at the Thunder Fit Clinic, presented by Homeland, held at Cimarron on Thursday afternoon. Along with Maynor, Serge Ibaka and Perry Jones helped teach 60 sixth graders the fundamentals of basketball, proper nutrition and the importance of exercise.

“I’m just trying to have fun with the kids, come in here and have a good time with them and teach them the fundamentals of basketball,” Maynor said. “Just being around little kids, I’m just trying to teach them and give them knowledge, and it’s fun.”

While Ibaka led layup lines, Maynor was acting the part of coach, teaching students proper dribbling techniques, how to execute a jump-stop move and encouraging them through each drill. Jones provided some comedic relief and a dose of his typical energy by showing off the “slip-and-slide” dribble move that drew lots of laughs from the already exuberant group of students.

After the session was over, the Thunder trio asked questions of the students to see if they paid attention during the Fit Clinic, then were on the receiving end of questions that the students had. Before they left, Maynor delivered a heartfelt message to the students about erasing the word ‘Can’t’ from their vocabulary and never giving up on their goals. That was a message that Cimarron Middle School’s Principal, Cordell Ehrich, was certainly pleased to have his students receive.

“I think it’s a really important thing at middle school age for them to understand that they’re going to have times where they’re going to want to say they can’t do it, but to try a different way,” Ehrich said. “To have someone speak that into them and that encouragement to them is really important and really valuable.”

The entire afternoon was a wonderful look into the joy of the game of basketball for children at a young age. What really jumped out, however, was how natural Maynor was in the role of mentor. The fourth-year guard has said on multiple occasions that once his playing career is over he’d like to be a coach. Afterward the Fit Clinic he confirmed that events like today’s continue to reinforce his desire to coach at some point in the future. From lessons he learned in his past and coaches that took him under his wing, Maynor has a great sense of what young students might need to hear to motivate them to dig deeper and soar higher.

“Like I told the kids, just believing in themselves and never saying that word, ‘Can’t’,” Maynor said.

Despite being in the midst of a stretch of six games in nine nights, the three Thunder players who attended the event at Cimarron brought energy, enthusiasm and focus to be sure to make an imprint on the students. Today’s event comes two days after the commemoration of the 1000th player appearance in the Oklahoma City community by the Thunder since the team came to town, and is just another example of how the organization and its hometown have a special bond.

“I think that’s what makes the Thunder unique in terms of the NBA,” Ehrich said. “They go above and beyond. They are a part of Oklahoma City and a part of the community and a part of what Oklahoma City is about, which is caring about each other and doing what is best and pouring into the community, which is a great thing for the Thunder.”