Pacers initiative builds youth basketball in Indiana

The Indiana Pacers have launched a major new initiative geared toward supporting youth basketball throughout Indiana. A community initiative of the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever, the Pacers Youth Basketball program solidifies Pacers Sports & Entertainment as the leader in supporting youth basketball in Indiana.

Pacers Youth Basketball is an evolving program that will support boys and girls youth basketball and sports organizations statewide in a variety of ways ranging from appearances by Pacers or Fever players, tickets to Pacers or Fever games, team jerseys, clinics and other programming. The 2008-09 basketball season is year one of the program, which is intended to grow with greater benefits and a broader reach each year.

The Pacers Youth Basketball program is a community-wide program with a vision toward the future. It is geared primarily toward youth ages 4 to 18. The program provides a firm, long-term commitment to help provide structure, organization and teamwork to youth programs by offering a direct association with the local pro basketball team; lending playing and coaching expertise with 1-on-1 interaction; and providing an easier and enhanced opportunity to participate in Pacers and Fever events.

PS&E’s vice president of communications, a Pacers TV analyst and a former Pacers player, Quinn Buckner leads the new program. Buckner’s own basketball education began on courts of the YMCA in Harvey, Ill. A point guard on Indiana University’s undefeated 1976 national champions, he has won a championship at every level – high school, college, Olympics and NBA.
“This is a chance for Pacers Sports to reach into our community, and help to grow our sport from a grassroots level,” said Buckner. “The focus of our program is to help build and enhance youth programs with a fun, rewarding and educational experience.”

“Our program drives an ongoing connection with youth, and will maintain broad-based visibility at key venues throughout Indiana,” he added.
Said Larry Bird, president of basketball operations for the Pacers, “Kids in Indiana grow up wanting to be a part of the local teams. We want to give our youth that opportunity, and we want to present that chance at local levels when they first become engaged in the sport.”

“What a great opportunity for these kids,” said Josh McRoberts, a second-year NBA player from Carmel who is in his first season with the Pacers and played his first organized basketball at the Jordan YMCA, the site of today’s announcement and one of many facilities that are already a part of Pacers Youth Basketball. “I remember playing my first games at the Jordan Y. I think it’s great for kids to have the affiliation with pro teams and players. It’s fun for me to come back here and know that I can lend a helping hand.”

“Youth basketball leagues are a great way to not only learn how to play,” said Pacers rookie Brandon Rush, “but also to develop friendships and understand what teamwork is about. I think this is a great way to help us develop young fans as well.”

I remember when I first started playing basketball,” said Olympic gold medalist and Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings. “I was lucky to have opportunities because of people who wanted to help me with my dreams. So now, I strive to provide opportunities and interact with kids who might not have the same chances I had.”

In year one of the new program, all league jerseys will bear a Pacers or Fever logo, and every facility will receive a Pacers Youth Basketball banner for courtside display. All participants will also receive tickets to Pacers or Fever games, a Pacers poster and certificate of participation. Year two of the program is expected to expand league memberships into surrounding counties, establish additional facility relationships and establish year-round branded camps and clinics. Participants in the program will include local civic groups or recreational programs, YMCA programs, church leagues, and CYO or AAU programs.

Approximately 7,500 youth are already involved in the program through commitments from the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Indiana Student Sports Association, Indiana Basketball Academy, Indy Parks and Recreation and the Carmel Dads’ Club. An agreement between Pacers Sports and the YMCA, for instance, includes over 12 leagues and over 3,000 participants. Indy Parks and Recreation anticipates roughly 2,000 participants in its first season.

“We are fortunate to have Pacers Sports & Entertainment partner with us at this time. Due to the challenges of our economy, we expect even more families to seek financial assistance from the YMCA in order to continue to provide their children with a safe place for physical fitness and fun,” said Eric J. Ellsworth, President/CEO, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. “This type of support is the reason why the YMCA is able to provide its programs and services to everyone who walks through our doors; regardless of their ability to pay.”

“Our facility will benefit from the name affiliation with the Pacers, and our kids will benefit from instructional opportunities afforded in this program,” said Tom Abernethy, Owner of Indiana Basketball Academy and a former pro who spent five seasons in the NBA including a part of the 1980-81 season with the Pacers. “The Pacers are the foremost basketball authorities in our region and I look forward to working with the Pacers to have an even greater impact on our youth.”

“Kids look up to these current and former pro players, and it is so neat to see the players give them the shirts off their backs,” said Stuart Lowry, Director of Indy Parks & Recreation. “This is a chance for our youth to have great uniforms and to be able to both celebrate their time on the court and feel connected to the Pacers. We are thrilled to be a part of this program.”