Energetic Jones Lights up Youth Camp

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer

Teamwork and camaraderie are staples of Thunder basketball. It should be no surprise, then, that it was on full display at the Thunder Youth Basketball Junior Camp at the Thunder Events Center on Wednesday.

With Thunder forward Perry Jones in the building competing with 60 kids aged five to nine, the campers had an NBA player to learn from and challenge. In one of the drills, a game called Dribble Tag, each camper has a ball and tries to keep their dribble alive as long as possible, all while attempting to steal the ball from their fellow campers. Usually those drills result in every man for themselves, but on Wednesday, the campers joined as one, and put the pressure solely on Jones. While it seemed like just a fun game, it’s an important activity in developing early ball-handling fundamentals.

“It helped me with my ball handling, and I’m sure it did the same for them,” Jones explained. “It’s also just a fun experience. A lot of people are ganging up on me, making sure I’m getting out. They kind of had a sense of teamwork out there for them. All around, today was fun. Every time I come to a Thunder camp, I always have fun because I’m a big kid at heart.”

Despite the campers teaming up against him, Jones had a smile on his face throughout the morning. Every time the rangy, quick, bouncy forward steps inside a gym he wows people with his athleticism. He earned oohs and ahhs from the kids with each dunk, but what is more special about the way he carries himself at these events is the effort he puts in. At every visit in the community, Jones’ energy and dedication to making each kid feel involved creates a unique atmosphere.

“When Perry comes in he brings a lot of energy,” Thunder Youth Basketball Coordinator Keeton Peery said. “He kind of relates to the kids. He’s always jumping around and wants to play dribble tag and play knockout and things like that. His energy is always so high.”

While Perry’s exuberance was a joy for the children and parents in attendance, the root of it actually came from the excitement the campers put on display. Each child at the camp seemed fired up to receiving individual instruction but also to be a part of the games and drills involving large groups of campers.  

“They bring energy to me to be honest,” Jones said. “The kids gave me some joy and gave me some energy. They’re so energetic in the morning and you have to match it. You go out there and have fun with them.”

To Jones, having the chance to put smiles on the faces of Oklahoma City youth is a special privilege. He realizes that as a Thunder player he has a certain status in town, but his goal at each community event is to help the kids understand that he was once in a similar position as a child who loved basketball. Jones is a down-to-earth, normal guy who simply wants to make kids have a special time with an NBA player, now that he has the chance to give back.

“I didn’t have this growing up,” Jones said. “I never had a professional athlete come to a camp where I was at, let alone was I in a youth camp. It’s just going out here, interacting with the kids and giving them hope. I always have fun when I’m out there, so it’s enjoyment for me too.”

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