Thunder Players Hoop With Students at John Marshall

Reggie Jackson slapped the floor as he got into his defensive stance. Cole Aldrich slid into help-side position while still watching his man. In the blink of an eye, Jackson swiped at the ball, made a steal then flung an alley-oop pass to Aldrich for a slam dunk.

This wasn’t a Thunder game at Chesapeake Energy Arena or even a practice at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center. This was on Wednesday at the Thunder Fit Clinic, presented by Homeland, at John Marshall Mid-High School in Oklahoma City. The clinic featured stations where the sixth, seventh and eighth graders had the chance to learn about nutrition, fitness and basketball drills like dribbling and shooting, but the highlight of the session came as Jackson and Aldrich took on all comers in two-on-two, while Perry Jones and Hollis Thompson did the same on the other end of the floor.

“It got a little competitive,” Jackson said. “We had to try to turn it up a little and get some baskets. These kids are really talented and fun to be around and enthusiastic. They actually really wanted to compete and take advantage of the experience. I think we did the same and at the end of the day, we just had fun and just try to come back and interact with the kids.”

It might be easy for players to come to the well-organized Thunder Fit Clinics that the organization’s community relations and youth basketball staffs put together and let the event run its course. For these Thunder players, it’s more important to get involved in a hands-on way. Jones, who has jumped in headfirst to community events this summer, has been particularly active in engaging students at every school.

“I feel like that you have a serious impact on the kids’ lives if you’re interacting with them, playing with them,” Jones said. “How many kids can go out there and say that they played one-on-one or two-on-two with NBA basketball players? It’s something that doesn’t happen often. I feel that I would have been motivated even more when I was younger going against an NBA player.”

Clearly, having their Thunder teammates together in Oklahoma City also creates a wave of energy amongst the players. Jackson was bubbling over with enthusiasm to simply be back with his teammates at the practice facility and out in the community. He also commented, however, that the Oklahoma City citizens- the children especially- do a great job of making the players feel normal and welcome, while treating them to a good time.

“It’s easy to have fun, especially in the market that we’re in,” Jackson said. “Everything is about the Thunder usually. The kids are really pumped up to see man-one through man-15 on the team. Most of them know your name and they just want to have fun and be themselves. It’s the same way that they would act if they were with each other. It’s kind of easy, they bring us in and have fun with us and compete with us and interact and enjoy the time.”

This isn’t the first time that the Thunder has held an event with John Marshall students. In fact, on March 8th of this year, in the midst of a stretch of three home games in four nights, Daequan Cook, Aldrich and Jackson all visited the school for a Fit Clinic. In a continually growing relationship with the school, the Thunder, through a leadership program, has been working with John Marshall sophomores and juniors, while a senior student, Tyler Harrison, has been interning with the Thunder organization as well. John Marshall’s principal, Aspasia Carlson, could not have been more ecstatic about the Thunder’s visit to her school on Wednesday and the impact the organization has on the community.

“We feel like the Thunder provides so many great opportunities for our kids and we want to have our kids be a part of that as much as possible,” Carlson said. “The Thunder players are just great role models, all the people in the organization are all positive and are really working to help our kids as a whole all over the city in all the schools.”