Working Up a Sweat at Deer Creek Middle School

By the end of the afternoon, Perry Jones had worked up more than just a sweat. He looked like he had gone through a tough workout.

That’s how much energy and effort Jones and his Thunder teammates brought to Deer Creek Middle School on Wednesday for the Thunder Fit Clinic, presented by Homeland. There were stations for fitness that featured push-ups and sit-ups, a nutrition station and two basketball skill stations led by Kendrick Perkins and Hollis Thompson.

The one that garnered the most attention, however, was Jones’ impromptu one-on-one drill station, where every student had multiple opportunities to both guard and try to score against Jones. One student, Jessica H., was thrilled when she scored a bucket, in addition to simply having a group of Thunder players at her school.

“It’s amazing,” Jessica said. “I watch them on TV and it’s great seeing them in person.”

It might be easy for a group of players who have been working out and training this summer to simply come into a school gymnasium and talk to the students and walk through the drills. It takes a level of commitment to the community and a true desire to make an impact to be as engaged, focused and entertaining as the Thunder players were on Wednesday. That spirit was most obvious from Jones, but also noticed when Perkins gave a heartfelt speech to the kids about how important nutrition and exercise is to their collective health.

“That means it’s genuine, when you see guys getting involved, it’s genuine and from the heart,” Perkins said. “When you get here, it’s genuine. It’s fun. I enjoy this. At the end of the day, after I left the gym I was going home and playing with my kids, so why not come out and brighten some other kids days up?”

The middle schoolers who had the chance to participate in the clinic were those in athletics or health related classes and made a commitment to trying to stay active and healthy. Principal Reuben Bellows walked through the gym with a smile on his face, trying to soak in every moment of the fact that his school, and his students, got to enjoy the Thunder making a trip to their school. Most of all, Bellows was happy that the children in the clinic will have great memories and stories to tell from their days at Deer Creek, even because of just one visit by Thunder players.

“For these kids, they’ll never forget it,” Bellows said. “Kendrick Perkins over here is teaching them defense, they’ll never forget that lesson that they got from him and that interaction with him, and that’s what means the most to the kids.”

Once the students were done going through each of the stations, the Thunder players rallied them together and spent some time taking part in a question and answer session. Questions ranged from “what it feels like to dunk on someone” to “who was the hardest player you ever had to play against”, and the players answered them all with funny, yet thoughtful responses.

Finally, it was time for Perkins seemingly ceremonial address to the students. While each time his stories or examples vary, whenever Perkins speaks to a group of children, he tries impart a little bit of the wisdom he’s gained over his eight NBA seasons, and his lifetime, that will help them along the way. With moments like Jones playing hard with students just like he was one of the guys, or Perkins thinking deeply about his message to the students, it was clear that the Thunder values the Oklahoma City community. As it was proven on Wednesday, it’s a goal of the Thunder and its players to invest their time and energy in ways to make those moments matter.

“It’s always a pleasure,” Perkins said. “You learn how to interact more with kids when you have kids of your own. So I know how to come in and just have fun. At my middle school, I never had anybody to come and tell me how important it is to eat right. It’s important to start at this age. There is a lot of obesity in the world, so it’s important. Just to see the kids smiling like that always brings a smile on my face.”