Perkins Checks in on Thunder Youth Basketball Camp

In talking with parents of children attending the Thunder Youth Basketball Camp, not only were this week’s sessions about improving their kids’ basketball skills, but teaching them about important off-the-court lessons as well.

For an added emphasis, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins stopped by the camp at Mid-American Christian University (MACU) in southwest Oklahoma City on Wednesday morning. Starting with a question and answer session with more than 100 campers, Perkins spoke with the 5- to 16-year-olds with meaning. While the coaches in the camp would teach them through drills on the court, Perkins believed that there was a special message that he could deliver that would resonate with the youngsters.

“Just to work hard, dream big,” Perkins said. “It’s never out of reach. Set a goal and go for it and just don’t stop believing.”

On Tuesday, Thunder guard Daequan Cook joined the campers for some spirited basketball action, so it was an incredibly pleasant surprise for the campers and parents to see Perkins on the scene as well. For some of those in attendance, it was the first time they had been acquainted with the game of basketball in a truly organized setting. For those campers and all of those involved, it was extremely unique to have NBA players spend time in that environment.

For example, Tracey Tate, a student at MACU, enrolled her 5-year-old daughter Rachel into the camp as a great way to get her to learn the game of basketball, socialize with other children and receive instruction.

“She’s been really excited about the opportunity,” Tate said. “This is her first time actually playing basketball and now she’s seen the Thunder on TV she is understanding it better and now she knows defense and she’s learning moves. I’m so excited for her.”

From shooting stations to defensive drills, the Thunder Youth Basketball Camp, presented by Cox Communications and led by Tyler Blackwell, finds ways of teaching a variety of different skills to budding basketball players. In fact, Perkins himself said that given it’s now summer vacation and he has some free time, he might try to find a way to get his son enrolled in the camp.

“I would,” Perkins said. “As a matter of fact, I’m thinking about putting him in here today… Anytime you see kids at an early age and you see the great group of people that are working with them and really teaching them great things, that’s always a pleasure to see. We don’t take enough time with our kids like we should. Just to see with this going on, it’s just exciting.”

Not only was a fun morning for Perkins, who continued to stay and interact with the kids even when the session was over, but for the campers and aspiring basketball players as well. The autograph session Perkins engaged in with the children was one of plenty of back-and-forth chatter, and the experience of simply getting to interact with a hero in the community was uncommon, especially for Chelsey M, a camper who said she wants a future in basketball when she grows up.

“It’s awesome, it’s like a dream come true,” Chelsey said.

The many parents in attendance were also shocked to see Perkins in attendance merely one day after Cook visited the camp. With cell phones, cameras and other electronics at the ready to take pictures of Perkins with their children, these parents, like Tate, got caught up in the excitement as well.

When speaking with Tracey, it was clear that the Thunder has made quite an impression on her and her daughter this week, who will undoubtedly be attending the camp next summer. The fact that the players are taking time out of the schedules only a few days after a difficult, compacted season, was noteworthy to Tate.

“I’ve been more than impressed, because I recognize that this is their down time, this is their vacation time,” Tate said. “I didn’t expect to see the players here. I’ve been overly impressed with their involvement with the children and the way they take time to talk to them. I’m grateful. The Thunder is graceful on the court, but they’re even more graceful off the court. I couldn’t be more proud of the Thunder than I am today.”

Perkins was asked about why he came to MACU to visit the campers today, and he simply explained that it was the right thing to do as a member of the Thunder and as a part of this Oklahoma City community. The Thunder as a team and organization feel a distinct, mutual connection with its city and state, meaning that each gives and supports one another on a daily basis.

“I feel like as far as the Thunder organization, we don’t just do it during the season when it is required,” Perkins said. “If you’re really are doing it from the heart, which we do, we’ll come out anytime we can. Anytime I get a chance, I definitely want to come out and speak some words of wisdom, some positive things for the kids and at least brighten up their day for a moment. It may go with a kid a long way, they make take what I’m telling them and go a long way with it.”