Aaron Gordon Held Basketball Camp for Local Youth

by John Denton

ORLANDO – His Orlando Magic still mourning the death of long-time owner Rich DeVos, forward Aaron Gordon talked on Saturday morning about being more of a leader on and off the basketball court and giving back in a manner that the late team patriarch would have greatly appreciated.

The 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward backed up his words with some tangible action on Saturday by hosting the Aaron Gordon Youth Basketball Camp for 100 local school-aged children in Orlando. In addition to handing out a few dribbling and shooting tips and signing autographs, Gordon played a few games of knock-out and one-on-one with the children at the College Park Community Center.

Heading into his fifth NBA season and financially secure after Orlando signed him to a long-term contract extension in July, Gordon said he is eager to be the leader that the Magic need in the years to come.

“The Magic and the City of Orlando invested in me, and with that, it’s my duty and responsibility to give back to the community on and off the court,” said Gordon, who noted that he is eager for his squad’s training camp to open on Sept. 25 at the Amway Center. “To me, leadership is always by action. To stand here and say, ‘I’m a leader’ with him words is meaningless. I want to make it evident that I am somebody who will lead by example. I want to set up after-school programs, have basketball camps for the kids and help in the community. One of my goals this year is to win the community assist award. That would mean a lot to me.”

The Magic’s community assist award is, of course, named after Rich and Helen DeVos – the husband-and-wife duo who owned Central Florida’s professional basketball franchise over the past 27 years. The Magic were rocked by Helen’s death last October and hit hard again this week when Rich DeVos passed away at the age of 92. Mr. DeVos, who died from complications following an infection, always made it a point to talk face-to-face with Gordon in the Magic’s locker room when he attended games. Mr. DeVos’ actions, blended with his perpetually positive words, always made a strong impression on the 22-year-old Gordon.

“To me, he was always super encouraging and super respectful,” Gordon recalled. “He had a ton of faith in me and he always let me know how proud of me that he was. He believed in me and he always meant well with everything he said and did. (His death) is a hit to the organization losing him. Hopefully, we can put together something special this season to honor his memory.’’

Gordon is coming off a season in which he averaged career-highs in points (17.6), rebounds (7.9), assists (2.3) and 3-point shooting (33.6 percent). The Magic rewarded that steady growth and his blossoming talent with a lucrative contract that could keep him in Orlando for several years.

In addition to promoting his first acting role in the movie “Uncle Drew,” Gordon has spent much of his offseason in the gym working to improve his basketball skills. Gordon said his biggest jumps since entering the NBA have come in the weight room. He feels the improved strength and stamina will make him even more of an unstoppable force this season.

“When I’m on the floor, I’m a monster now because there’s no fatigue,” said Gordon, who was limited to 58 games last season because of hip, ankle and concussion issues. “It’s been too often that I’ve been off the floor due to little nagging, lingering injuries. So, hitting the weight room and taking care of my body even more is going to be super helpful this season.

“Working in the weight room has also been good for showing the young guys how they need to train,” Gordon said. “But I really think what I’ve done in the weight room is going to help me stay on the floor for longer periods of time and allow me to navigate around fatigue.”

There was no fatigue from Gordon on Saturday as he joined right in on several drills with the children at his basketball camp. After conducting drills for a couple of hours, Gordon fielded questions about his favorite players growing up (Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan), how old he was when he first dunked (12 years old) and whether or not he could make a half-court shot (he missed on five tries).

For Gordon, he said interacting with kids – both in informative drills and playful Q-and-A sessions – is just one way he can try and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

“For me, it’s an incredible feeling to be with the kids, chirp at them a little bit and have a good time,” he said. “They always want to know what my gamer tag is on PlayStation. They’re always talking about how they can dunk on me, jump over me or beat me one-on-one. It’s just fun playing with them and helping them however I can.

“We’re going to get these camps bigger and bigger, with more kids and more dimensions,” he added. “Basketball is one aspect of my life that I want to share with the kids and camps are a good way to do it.”

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